It may not be a blockbuster signing, but the arrival of Harrison Ashby from West Ham should still excite Newcastle United fans. For while the young right-back has made only a handful of senior appearances, the Magpies are signing a player who was the subject of a tug of war between every major London club as a small child.
Ashby has been scouted as Kieran Trippier’s long-term replacement by United manager Eddie Howe and sporting director Dan Ashworth.
But the now 21-year-old was in the sights of big clubs much earlier, aged just six or seven. Although he joined the Hammers aged nine, Ashby had already been at Chelsea’s academy for two years – and sparked a capital-wide scouting battle even before that.
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“All the London clubs had wanted Harrison to come and train,” Harrison’s father Barry Ashby - an ex-pro who played for Brentford and Watford during his 17-year career – told The Athletic.
And another thing which Ashby Jr’s limited CV in senior football does not show Newcastle fans is his versatility.
“He started off as a midfielder and has played everywhere for West Ham,” added Ashby Sr. “The only position he hasn’t played for West Ham is goalkeeper.
“Then he went to right wing for a while, played at left-back, he played as a centre-half for the under-16s and under-18s, but he’s always liked the right-back position.”
That adaptability also brings with it excellent technical ability, which bodes well for Ashby developing into a player who can emulate Trippier’s creativity.
Ashby’s first touch in Premier League football saw him skip inside Eddie Nketiah so swiftly that the Arsenal striker fell over. And while the youngster’s five assists and two goals in 19 Premier League 2 games for West Ham last season speak to his productivity, so too did a glorious Trippier-like free kick against Leeds U21s in September 2021
Despite being a Scotland Under-21 international, Ashby was born in Milton Keynes, and his only link to Scotland is his grandfather on his mother’s side.
Ashby earned his first Premier League appearance in December 2021, where the right-back displayed his top-flight pedigree, making Eddie Nketiah fall over with a swift turn inside.
But, given Tripper’s form, it may be a while before Ashby gets the chance to repeat that or his other tricks at St James’ Park.
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