Knight: Ashdown’s quality was never in doubt

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Samantha Quayle. Picture: Jordan Hampton

Flying start for Pompey with Cardiff swept aside

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A year ago, Jamie Ashdown’s career was at a crossroads.

Having slipped to third-choice goalkeeper at Pompey during the course of the 2009-10 season, his hopes of earning a new deal at Fratton Park looked bleak.

With the club’s administration confirmed, it was no major surprise Ashdown was among the long list of departures when his contract expired last summer.

But the January sale of Asmir Begovic and David James’ decision to head for pastures new at the end of the last campaign opened the door again and Ashdown gave his Blues career one final chance when he re-signed under new boss Steve Cotterill.

From a third-choice keeper kicking his heels on a matchday, to undisputed number one and an almost invincible run of eight clean sheets in nine matches, it’s been a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for a long-serving player who has seen Pompey in all of its guises during his seven-year spell.

But while he has required some serious patience to earn his number-one status – after competing with Shaka Hislop, Harald Wapenaar, Sander Westerveld and Kostas Chalkias for the goalkeeper’s jersey earlier in his Pompey career – his old mentor and goalkeeping coach insists it was only a matter of time before people realised what he already knew.

Knight, who recom-mended Ashdown to Pompey, said: ‘His performances this

season have proved what a good goalkeeper Jamie really is.

‘Personally, I never doubted that but maybe some other people didn’t know it.

‘Circumstances dictated that, when Dean Kiely and then David James came in, his first-team opportunities were almost non-existent.

‘But, after being released by the club, he was given the opportunity to come back and get a run in the side and he has taken that with both hands.

‘This season he has managed to get an extended run in the side and it’s testament to him that he made an error at QPR but soon afterwards started that great run of clean sheets.

‘It’s down to the defensive unit as well but it’s great for a keeper to get a string of clean sheets like that.

‘It shows his character that he has got back into the side and done so well.

‘John Keeley, the goalkeeping coach, deserves a lot of credit as well.’

Former Reading man Ashdown had to make do with just a handful of first-team appearances after James’ arrival at Fratton Park in 2006. But it’s been a different story this term, with the keeper an ever-present in the side with just eight games to go this season.

Knight said: ‘It would have been bitterly disappointing for him to drop down to number-three goalkeeper behind Jamo and Asmir.

‘It possibly didn’t help that when he did get his chance in the side in the Premier League that people thought he looked a bit sluggish.

‘But he never really got any game time over a three-year period, so that’s hard for anyone to just come in like that.

‘He suffered with a few injuries but the bottom line was that he wasn’t getting enough games and he was almost stagnating for three years.

‘As a goalkeeper, you want to play every week.’

Cotterill has made it clear that Ashdown is his number-one keeper but Knight also believes understudy Darryl Flahavan has played his part behind the scenes.

Knight said: ‘It’s always good to be told you are number one by the manager and it gives you that bit of extra confidence but you also need someone pushing you as well as Darryl Flahavan has.

‘You can get complacent if you haven’t got someone pushing you hard for your place in the team.’