IT is extremely sad to report that Saints’ former scrum-half of the 1970s Alan Ashton has passed away at the age of 65 after illness, writes Alex Service.
Alan signed for Widnes from the Ditton junior club in 1968 and appeared for the Chemics in the 1972 Floodlit final at Leigh. He made 85 appearances for Widnes, scoring 19 tries.
He was snapped up by St. Helens for £1,500 in 1975 and was substitute in the 1977 Premiership final, although the 1977-78 campaign was Alan’s best as a Saint, when he took part in 34 matches as his team reached the semi-finals of the Lancashire Cup, Floodlit trophy.
They went on to beat Warrington in the Challenge Cup semi-final and met Leeds in that epic Wembley encounter that the Yorkshiremen won by 12-14. Alan was non-playing substitute that day, with Tony Karalius, who also remained on the bench for the eighty minutes.
Alan was not unlike many half-backs of the pre-Super League era, in that he was five and a half feet in height and weighed eleven stones! Yet he was a bubbly character in the dressing room environment, an enthusiastic and tireless worker in the loose and a great team player.
“Alan was a good friend of mine”, recalls former Saints’ loose forward Harry Pinner. “He was Best Man at my wedding and was an excellent player. I remember we used to work moves from around the scrum-base that would confuse even the best defenders. He had good hands and at any other club he would have been a first team regular week-in week-out. It’s so sad to hear that he has gone.”
Alan made his Saints’ debut against Keighley in the league match at Knowsley Road on March 19 1976 and scored a try in his new team’s 21-2 success for good measure. The team that day was as follows: Pimblett; Jones, Wilson, Noonan, Mathias; Ken Gwilliam, Ashton; Charles, Karalius, James, Hull, Eric Chisnall and Pinner. Subs; Thompson and Liptrot
He went on to play 67 games in the red vee, 39 from the bench, scoring six tries, kicking three goals and a solitary drop-goal. His team-mates included some of the greatest players in the club’s history and whenever selected for the seniors, he never failed to give less than one hundred percent.
Alan’s younger brother, Ray was also a half-back, who played for Oldham, Leeds, Workington and Bramley. He was a Great Britain tourist in 1984.
Alan moved to Whitehaven early in 1978-79, where he linked up with his former Widnes team-mate Ray Dutton. We send our condolences to Alan’s family at this sad time.