Lean Dean aims to be West Ham and England goal machine


Last updated at 20:02 23 March 2008

There was a time, not

so long ago, when the

XL on Dean Ashton's

chest might have

referred to his shirt

size, rather than West Ham's


Already sidelined for a year with a

broken ankle, he had spent seven

weeks recovering from knee

ligament trouble and the effects of

such prolonged inactivity were

beginning to tell.

While onlookers once marvelled

at the punch he brought to West

Ham's attack, all eyes were suddenly

on his paunch. Not any more.

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ashton header

Net gain: Tim Howard is unable to stop Ashton's header

Four months on, he is back to his

fighting weight and looking every

inch the England striker he so

nearly became before injury intervened.

An England place seemed

close at hand after he was named

in one of Steve McClaren's squads

and will surely beckon again after

compelling evidence that he could

prove Fabio Capello's missing link.

McClaren's successor has been

bombarded with

suggestions for

his best attacking

formation, but

all those


appear to

lack a viable candidate providing muscle as well

as menace.

There are plenty who

could fill the other roles, not least

Steven Gerrard or Wayne Rooney

as support striker, or Michael

Owen alongside a target man, but

genuine leaders of the line seem in

short supply.

Ashton appears to meet the

requirements, and they were in evidence

at Goodison Park as he took

on Everton's defence by himself

and salvaged a point with an outstanding

68th-minute equaliser —

a soaring leap above Phil Jagielka

and connection that was too good

for Tim Howard's despairing dive.

It was just reward for a forceful

show of lone front-running and

proof that Capello need look no

further for an attacking spearhead,

according to West Ham's England

squad keeper Robert Green.

"When you look at England's

strikers, the likes of Rooney and

Owen, the one thing they seem to

be missing is what Dean offers," he


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dean ashton

On target: Ashton with Noble

"He has unique attributes

among current England forwards

and he already has half an eye on getting back in there. It has to be

one step at a time, because the

body needs time to adjust after a

lengthy injury absence. He'll feel

stiff and awkward for a few days

after the effort he put in here.

"It is a difficult, thankless task up

front on your own. There is so

much mileage to cover, but he

looks like a new man. He did

magnificently well and scored a

wonderful goal.

"He has a vast range

of qualities and is ideal as a big centre

forward. If he stays fit, his sheer

quality will shine through. We have

seen it for the Under 21s, and it is

just a question of getting him out

on the pitch week in, week out."

Yakubu's 19th goal of the season

gave Everton the perfect start as

he brushed aside 18-year old

debutant James Tomkins before

volleying beyond Green.

His 20th should have arrived

shortly after when a linesman

wrongly raised his flag just as

Yakubu expertly placed a side-foot

finish beyond Green's reach.

Ashton had clipped a post and

had a free-kick saved by Howard

when he equalised for a sprightly

West Ham side who had plenty of

youthful exuberance in Tomkins

and substitute Freddie Sears.

Sears might even have won it

with a last-minute effort that came

back off an upright, and manager

Alan Curbishley said: "I've never

had any doubts about those two

boys. They are very level-headed.

I came down to breakfast this

morning and they were sitting

round a table with 19-year-old Jack


"Then Mark Noble joined

them and he was like the shop

steward because he's about a year

older. There is a nice spirit when

you've got youngsters with you."

Dropping two points a week after

losing at Fulham was worrying

enough for David Moyes, but Mikel

Arteta's most subdued 90 minutes

of the season must have concerned

him even more.

The Everton manager said:

"Mikel's form could be better, but

you could say that about a few of

the players. He is important for us,

and we need him to reach the high

standards he has set himself."

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