Happy birthday Neil Ashton – a man who has proved a big asset to North Wales football for the best part of 10 years in total.
As well as a successful five seasons with Wrexham in the Conference, the defender has also represented Cefn Druids in the Welsh Premier League and Europe and is currently playing for Llandudno of the Cymru North.
Born on January 15, 1985, the Liverpool based dad-of-two is 37 today.
Effective in defence or midfield, Ashton started his career with Tranmere Rovers as a youth player in 2001 and turned professional in 2003. He was part of the senior squad until 2005, making just one league appearance during his time at Prenton Park.
In the 2004-05 season he was loaned out to League Two Shrewsbury Town and made 24 appearances.
By the end of 2004/05, Ashton’s loan deal with the Shrews became permanent and he went on to make 133 appearances in all competitions, before switching to Macclesfield Town in January 2008.
He spent the rest of the 2008-09 campaign with the Cheshire-based League Two outfit, featuring in 19 matches.
In summer 2009, Ashton signed for Chester City, who had recently been relegated to the Conference Premier.
However, he was left without a club on 26 February 2010 after Chester were expelled from the Football Conference for breaching five league regulations, then wound up.
After Chester’s demise, Ashton joined fierce rivals Wrexham on trial, playing twice for the reserves, impressing then manager Dean Saunders.
He signed for the Conference club ahead of the 2010-11 campaign and was to spend five seasons at the Racecourse.
Ashton became a regular in the side and in his first season with the Dragons made 42 appearances including playing in both legs of the defeats to Luton Town in the Conference Play-off semi-finals.
In the 2011-12 season, Ashton was part of the Wrexham side that finished second in the league gaining 98 points, but they again lost in the play-off semis to Luton.
Ashton earned the club’s player of the season award after making 48 appearances including an FA Cup 3rd round match against Brighton & Hove Albion when they lost on penalties after a replay.
The 2012-13 season was one to remember for Ashton, who took over penalty duties from the departing Jake Speight. On 6 November, 2012, Neil signed a new 3-year contract with the Dragons.
In March 2013, he picked up his first career honour by winning the FA Trophy with Wrexham.
Ashton played in every round but missed the final at Wembley against Grimsby Town due to injury.
A month and a half later, Ashton played at Wembley in a Wrexham shirt, in a 2-0 loss to Newport County in the Conference play-off final.
Ashton was released by Wrexham on 14 May 2015. He made 222 appearances in all competitions for the club, scoring 15 goals.
Stints with Barrow and Southport followed before in July 2017 Ashton signed for Cefn Druids of the Welsh Premier.
At the end of his debut campaign at The Rock, the Ancients had achieved their best top flight finish of fifth and qualified for Europe via the play-offs.
In 2018-19, the former Wrexham man had his first taste of European football as Druids qualified for the Europa League, losing just 2-1 over two legs to Lithuanian side FK Trakai.
Ashton left Druids after three seasons and joined Llandudno in September 2020.
The Seasiders and their new signing were to play just one match in 2020-21 in the Nathaniel MG Cup, the rest of the campaign cancelled due to Covid.
Ashton recommitted to Tudno for 2021-22 and has played in five games for Sean Eardley’s side this season.
Happy birthday mate – have a great day. Thanks for all your superb support to me in my writing career, especially in your Wrexham days, when you provided me with many a good interview.