Jamie Ashdown: The Big Interview

Jamie Ashdown played 123 games for Pompey from 2004-12 ' a spell that saw him break the club's post-war league record of 636 minutes without conceding
Jamie Ashdown played 123 games for Pompey from 2004-12 ' a spell that saw him break the club's post-war league record of 636 minutes without conceding
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From nearly guy to record-breaker and Southampton spoiler to Trust trailblazer, it’s fair to say Jamie Ashdown’s Pompey career was eventful.

And it is a measure of the player and the man that he’s remembered favourably by the Fratton faithful for his work on and off the pitch.

I kept six consecutive clean sheets and broke the club’s post-war record for longest run without conceding. That’s the sort of record you can take home and tell your kids

Jamie Ashdown

A 123-game, eight-season stay at the Blues began in earnest for the recently-retired 35-year-old goalkeeper back in 2004.

Having arrived at Harry Redknapp’s Premier League newcomers as Shaka Hislop’s understudy, Ashdown had to fight for his right to earn a place in between the posts for Pompey.

And that initial duel developed into a seemingly never-ending battle as Kostas Chalkias, Sander Westerveld, Dean Kiely, David James and Asmir Begovic took it in turns to provide competition.

Ashdown said: ‘I was out of contract at Reading and seeking to play a higher standard of football.

‘I met a couple of managers, including Harry Redknapp, and being from down south it suited me well to come to Pompey.

‘This was a club willing to spend some money and at the time also looking to get a new stadium, so I jumped at the chance.

‘We had Shaka, who I watched when I was in my Reading youth days, and was in awe of him.

‘Harry also loved him and I knew I wasn’t going to go straight into the side because of Shaka’s experience – it was a matter of me plugging away that first season.

‘We then had Chalkias, though, and after that it was Westerveld.

‘Then it was Dean Kiely and David James, and in the background we had Asmir Begovic, so it was a constant battle!’

While James was Pompey’s most successful goalkeeper in Ashdown’s time at the club – winning the FA Cup in 2008 and returning for another final appearance in 2010 – he wasn’t always the easiest team-mate to get along with.

Ashdown said: ‘David James was fantastic, although there were difficult days with him in training.

‘He was a big personality, and being such an athlete he also had a confidence about him as well.

‘I had to tread carefully around him when he was playing – like a lot of the players.

‘I found a way of getting on with him, though, so I did something that a lot of people couldn’t!’

What Ashdown was unable to do, though, was take James’ Wembley place – although he came mightily close in 2010.

With Pompey’s regular stopper struggling with a calf injury, Ashdown played in the Blues’ league games preceding the FA Cup semi-final and final, only for James to declare himself fit to start on both of the big occasions.

Indeed, England’s former No1 gestured to the bench in the first half of Pompey’s 1-0 final defeat to Chelsea, he was struggling with an injury – with Ashdown sent for a half-time warm-up, only for James to play through the pain.

‘I played a few games in the lead up to both the semi-final and final – and remember coming off the bench at Tottenham in the league just before our semi-final against them,’ said Ashdown.

‘But Jamo just turned up for the semi and the final as well.

‘In fact, about 25-30 minutes in against Chelsea he signalled to the bench his calf was gone.

‘There was a worry he was not going to be able to continue, so I went and warmed up at half-time.

‘I would have been ready and enjoyed it if I had come on.

‘I didn’t have nerves or anything like that but it wasn’t to be.’

While the Blues lost out in 2010, it wasn’t to be Ashdown’s day two years previously either, despite the famous 1-0 triumph over Cardiff.

Having to watch on from the bench left the sub stopper unable to fully appreciate the winners’ medal that was initially stolen from him, before the FA replaced it.

He said: ‘Winning the Cup still doesn’t mean a massive amount to me because I didn’t play.

‘But being in the squad and witnessing what happened that day was quite something – it was a big triumph for a small club really.

‘Having trained day in, day out, Pompey were my team, and even if you are the doctor or masseur you still share in the moment.

‘That said, I left the medal in my jacket and put it in one of the cloakrooms, and lo and behold someone pinched it!

‘Thankfully, I got it back after calling the FA and getting one reissued – it all worked out fine.’

While a sense of achievement was missing for Ashdown from the Blues’ Cup glory, his post-war league record of 636 minutes without conceding a goal in the 2010-11 Championship season is one he is rightly proud to tell his children about.

After 42 scattered Premier League appearances for the Blues in the previous six seasons, the perennial back-up man was finally made an ever-present under Steve Cotterill and repaid the manager’s faith in fine style in a 50-game campaign.

Ashdown said: ‘I kept six consecutive clean sheets and broke the club’s post-war record for longest run without conceding.

‘That’s the sort of record you can take home and tell your kids.

‘And until it gets broken, it’s something I’ll remain proud of.

‘There aren’t many people who can say they have done that.

‘Van der Sar did it for 14 games but at top teams like Manchester United that’s a bit more expected.

‘In the Championship, most of the games are full of goals.

‘You get the odd clean sheet but six in a row is brilliant, really.’

Now retired, though, Ashdown is able to give more thought to specific games and one in particular often comes to mind.

The 2-2 draw at Southampton in April 2012 may be best remembered by Blues fans for David Norris’ last-gasp equaliser, but for the midfielder to have even salvaged a point owed much to the continued heroics of man-of-the-match Ashdown.

He said: ‘It was an emotional day – derby games always are.

‘Time goes really quickly and things in the game seem to happen very quickly, so for me it was just about keeping my concentration.

‘You make a save and then move onto the next one, that’s the job.

‘I must have done okay that day because there’s always Pompey fans saying to me they remember that Southampton game.

‘I certainly remember the David Norris volley.

‘I think if it was at home I probably would have run into the crowd to celebrate with the others.

‘I can’t blame being too tired because as a goalkeeper you don’t have to do too much running!’

Ashdown, instead saved his running around for off-the-field endeavours as he threw his weight and money behind the liquidation-threatened club’s fan takeover under the Pompey Supporters’ Trust.

His contribution was telling as he convinced at least 11 Blues team-mates, including Norris and Joel Ward, to make Trust pledges in the successful fight to raise funds.

It’s a selfless and meaningful act which has not been forgotten by the Fratton faithful, although Ashdown is quick to downplay his efforts.

He added: ‘I got all of the boys involved in it – the ones I could.

‘I wanted to give support to the idea and just felt like it was the right thing to do for the club.

‘It’s great to have played a little part in helping out Pompey and the fans, and if in any way I got a few more people involved by showing player support then that’s pleasing.’

Ashdown somewhat ironically left Pompey a matter of weeks later at the end of the 2011-12 season, after being released as a result of the Blues’ ongoing financial problems.

But the love affair between player, club and fans meant he was constantly linked with a return, with the Blues having a loan offer rejected by Leeds only a matter of months after leaving Fratton Park.

Spells at Crawley and Oxford followed, before Ashdown decided to call it quits at the start of this season, aged 34 after failing to hold down a No1 spot at the U’s.

Now 35, Ashdown is taking his first steps into the world of coaching, and also enjoying his role as ambassador for charity Football For Cancer, based in Portsmouth.

‘Now I am retired I would like to continue to give back to the community,’ said Ashdown.