My Favourite Player: Ian Ashbee

– by Joe Warrington

Throughout their 107-year history, it’s fair to say Hull City haven’t had too much to shout about. Without a trophy cabinet to speak of, and the majority of their recent existence spent in the bottom two tiers of English football, only a two-year stay in the Premier League from 2008 to 2010 put the club on the footballing map. A common pub quiz question would often feature the Tigers as being “the only club in England whose letters you cannot colour in”. However, as of August 16th, 2008, the club had another unique fact to boast of. Enter Ian Ashbee.

Ashbee made a total of 264 appearances for Hull City, in nine years at the club. Photo: Alex Blackburne

In June 2002, Jan Molby signed the midfielder from Cambridge United – one of very few marks the Dane left in an underwhelming stay at Boothferry Park. It didn’t take long for City fans to become accustomed to their new captain’s style of play, after he saw red on his debut against Southend United. Ashbee made the captain’s armband his own, and unsurprisingly, retained the role under new manager Peter Taylor.

The 2003/04 season saw Ashbee’s first real achievement in black and amber, marking the start of the club’s historic rise through the Football League. Hull City finished 2nd in Division Three, winning promotion marking a new era for the club. His stunning volley on the penultimate day of the season away at Yeovil Town to clinch promotion has since become a defining moment in both the club’s history and Ashbee’s career.

The club gained back-to-back promotions with another 2nd place finish in League One, and yet again, the man fast becoming Captain Fantastic was pivotal. His debut Championship season was soured, however, when he was diagnosed with a degenerative bone condition in his thigh, keeping him out for the majority season as the club successfully fought relegation in his absence. Ashbee joined the City fans in the away end for the final game at Watford that season, promising the travelling support big things upon his return.

It was promotion into the Premier League in the 2008/09 campaign that eclipsed all of Ian Ashbee’s achievements as a Hull City player. For me, it was the season our captain was at his best. Phil Brown had found the perfect role for Ashbee and the two, along with assistant manager Brian Horton, formed a formidable partnership which would prove to be the formula that led the club to Wembley, and the Premiership, for the first time. It was another club hero, Dean Windass, that stole the headlines on the day Hull City joined the country’s elite, but Ian Ashbee lifting the trophy at Wembley meant as much to Tigers fans as anything else.

When Ashbee led his team out to face Fulham at the KC Stadium in August 2009, history was made on two counts. The first of which saw him join an exclusive club in the game, and along with Boaz Myhill, Andy Dawson and Ryan France, the then-32-year-old became noted for representing the same club in all four divisions of English football. Ashbee, being Ashbee, took that one step further. His captaincy of the Tigers earned him the unique record of captaining team through all four divisions.

For every high the Premiership brought, it was counterbalanced with an almighty low. Whether that be a 2-1 away win at the Emirates, or yet another career-threatening injury, this time at Aston Villa. The 2009/10 season ultimately brought relegation, and it was no coincidence the club suffered its first relegation during Ashbee’s time in East Yorkshire as he missed the majority of the run-in.

Every City fan, without fail, will have a favourite Ian Ashbee moment. Wembley, Yeovil and the first Premiership game against Fulham are likely to feature most prominently. Mine? Probably Yeovil. But that’s likely to change tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. The events in which surrounded his departure to Preston North End earlier this season do not comply to his tenure as captain of Hull City one bit, and that’s probably best left for another day. Nevertheless, Ian Ashbee will forever remain one of Hull City’s greatest ever servants, and therefore, my favourite player.

– Joe Warrington, from Hull, is about to start a degree in journalism at the University of Lincoln.

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3 Responses to “My Favourite Player: Ian Ashbee”

  1. Brilliant article.

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