City’s totemic, all action midfielder and occasional captain Ian Ashbee talks with Amber Nectar about that goal at Torquay, his partnership with Dean Keates and the allure of Icelandic women!
Amber Nectar: What made you want to join Hull City in the first place?
Ian Ashbee: I had a few options at the end of last season, I was looking for advice from my agent and stuff, as soon as came down and spoke to Jan Molby, and I’d seen the potential the club had with the new stadium opening and the fan base, there was only one winner then and I’d made my mind up.
AN: Do you still think you made the right decision coming here?
IA: Definitely. Without a shadow of a doubt.
AN: Did Cambridge make a big effort to keep you and how did they react when you turned down a new deal?
IA: Cambridge made…an effort…Cambridge were struggling at the time, there were lads taking paycuts.
Though the move wasn’t money orientated I saw some people who wasn’t even playing getting a lot more money than some of us who were busting our guts every week.
So I dug my heels in a little bit but they had a lot of financial troubles, and when once I got a few offers I decided maybe it was best to move on. I’d been there six years, we’d been promoted and got to the LDV final and had some good times and some bad times, so I’ve served my time there. I had a good relationship with the manager, John Taylor, ‘cos I’d played with him for years and during the promotion year he was one of our top scorers, so he was on my side, he said he’d do the best for me and I trusted him. It was the hierarchy really, they were upset when I left because I was one of the more experienced players and a lot of youngsters were coming through at that time.
AN: The Cambridge fans gave you a bit of stick in the 2-1 win there…
IA: Yeah, me and Keatesy got a bit of stick that day, I didn’t know how it was gonna go, I’d seen other players go back and get given a hard time, and I got a clap at the beginning and then they give me a bit of stick during the game but I don’t mind that, I’ve got broad shoulders.
AN: Speaking of Dean Keates, you struck up a partnership with him pretty quickly, do you have a good rapport?
IA: I enjoy playing with Dean Keates a great deal, and vice versa I think, we work well together, we know what one of us is doing and what the other needs to do and when we’re in there if he’s gonna crunch somebody I’m crunching straight behind him. I usually sit in the middle but I know that he’s got the experience to sit there for me if I venture forwards.
AN: What was your reaction when Jan Molby departed?
IA: Well, he brought me in, he gave me a chance with Hull City and I’m grateful for that. It was a shock, to everybody. Jan Molby spoke his mind and some players didn’t like it. He maybe did some things wrong in hindsight when you think what he said and did, but some players can’t handle some facts in my opinion. I was shocked but there was no doubt in my mind then and there is no doubt now, I’m 100% committed to the club.
AN: What did you think when Peter Taylor was appointed? Were you impressed?
IA: Yeah, I mean he’s managed some of the best players in the world, Beckham, Owen…you can only learn from a manager of his experience. When I’ve played against his teams when I was at Cambridge, and Gillingham and Brighton and they were hard working and organised and maybe that was what we needed at that time and I think he did that for us. The club is only going one way, I know we are struggling of late but the club is definitely moving, the chairman we’ve got, the manager and players.
AN: How does he compare with other managers you’ve worked with?
IA: He’s got to be the top manager I’ve dealt with really, his training is unbelievable, he pulls you to one side and gets out a lot out of you in training. We need to take that over in to a game because he can only work on the training pitch, at 3 o’clock on a Saturday it’s down to us.
AN: Peter Taylor has said that the players are scared playing in front of big crowds, do you agree with that?
IA: To a certain extent, because we’ve not performed in front of a big crowd, there’s only the 2-0 against Scunthorpe at Boothferry Park, and that’s how I want us to play every week, we were magnificent that day and that’s the only time I can remember us doing it in front of a big crowd. It obviously does get to some of the lads but I keep stressing that it’s what you want to do, play in front of thousands and thousands of fans, I’ve been there when you’re playing in front of 2000 fans and you’re up to your knees in mud and I know where I’d rather be. We’ve got to learn how to deal with it, the pressure of the fans when we’re not doing so well.
AN: How far is fair for supporters to criticise during matches?
IA: The fans pay the wages, so they can criticise as much as they like. Some fans go over the top but you get that in all aspects of life, not just football, what you wear or anything, I’m getting stick for my beard in the dressing room at the minute, they say one gust of wind and it’ll blow off! The fans, for me, are entitled to their opinions and we’ve got to learn how to deal with it and become bigger and stronger.
AN: Why do you think we have underachieved this season?
IA: I don’t know, if I could put my finger on it I’d be the manager…No, I can’t really answer that question, I wish I could. There are three manager’s players here, Little’s, Molby’s and now the gaffer’s, we’ve not really had a settled side either because of injuries, suspensions and I’m suspended again now, which is stupid. But I don’t know, the club, everyone, the fans, the chairman and manager deserve better and we’ve got to work towards getting better.
AN: How is the atmosphere amongst the players?
IA: The atmosphere is fine, we are all frustrated, because we know we are better than what we’re is showing and we get upset with each other that we’re not going in the right direction. We need to be up the league and not drawing and losing at home to Lincoln, and for me it shows that we all care, I mean Damien [Delaney] was very upset in the changing room and if he’d come in not bothered, just gone home and forgotten about it, then maybe you ask questions, but he was in there upset, head in his hands and to me that shows he cares and we do have a lot of lads that do care and are trying.
AN: You played in a promotion winning side at Cambridge, what do you think they had that we lack?
IA: Well, they had three strikers, Martin Butler, Trevor Benjamin and John Taylor, and they got over fifteen goals each that season, and you need that. So maybe we’re not creating enough for the strikers, I thought Gary Alexander was gonna do that for us, he had a lull and then picked up and scored a couple, but we need a definite goal scorer. Fozzie (Jamie Forrester) has come in now, and I’ve played against Fozzie a few times and he scores.
AN: When you played for Derby, you went on loan to a club in Iceland and in one interview when you got back you said you were impressed because you’d thought they all lived in igloos, you didn’t really think that did you?
IA: Hahaha, no! That was just a bit of banter with someone. As a young lad that was brilliant for me that was, the women over there are unbelievable, every on is a 9 out of 10 I have to say, haha, it’s a brilliant culture over there and we got looked after really well. Two of us went over there and helped the team avoid relegation, I scored something like six in five, I never figured out how to pronounce the teams name though, haha.
AN: The goal at Torquay, you meant that didn’t you?
IA: Well, I can’t say I meant to hit the top corner but the ball came out of the sky and I heard everyone shouting ‘nooo!’, so I thought I’m going for it and I hit it. I did one the week after at Shrewsbury, nearly a carbon copy, but yeah, I meant it.
AN: People were are little surprised to learn that your dismissal against Southend was your first sending off…
IA: I couldn’t believe it, I’d never been sent off before and I was gutted and hold myself responsible for only getting a draw. We didn’t play well but we should have got three points so I should have used my head a bit better, I know better than that.
AN: What do you think of your terrace chant?
IA: Have I got one? I’ve not really heard it. Gary Alexander mentioned it but I’ve not heard, so maybe I need to listen a bit better and you lot can sing louder, haha. That’s brilliant, it’s get people going and the atmosphere going.
AN: Are you happy to be given the captain’s armband?
IA: That’s a tricky one for me, I have to say I prefer when Judda [Justin Whittle] plays so he’s the captain. I am responsible enough and I do try to lead through example, but I do get into a little bit of trouble now and then and when I’m captain I can’t, Judda’s the model pro. But his muscles are too big to get the captain’s armband around, haha, he does all the organising and gets all the fines in and to me that’s being the captain and inside the squad and Justin is good at that. If I’m captain I’m proud of that, it’s a privilege, but I can be a bit naughtier when I’m not the captain.
Thanks to Louise Wells and John Holmes