Robins are a cut above the rest
Sunday 3rd May 2015 @ 12:13 by Mark Phillip
Ashton Football Sports

Ashton United Football Club has been an integral part of the Tameside community for 135 years.

The club might not revel in financial riches, nor does it boast top class facilities, but the Robins are a cut above the rest in terms of community engagement.

One supporter who would whole heartedly agree with this assertion is Alan Sneddon.

The self-proclaimed Manchester City fan has become a non-league junkie since he first tasted Evo-Stik premier action last September.

The 48 year old saw the Robins edge their way to a 1-0 victory against Halesowen Town thanks to Kayde Coppin’s effort in the 60th minute.

Prior to the much needed victory, the club had accumulated a meagre eight points in their opening nine fixtures.

The sluggish start to the campaign suggested Paul Philip’s men were suffering the residual effects of a play-off final defeat to AFC Fylde just four months earlier.

However, initial doubts were quickly swept aside and the squad embarked on a remarkable run that stood the test of time.

The squad’s quality and resilience was reflected in their impressive league record, which stood at 24 victories, 13 draws and 10 losses.

Alan once worshipped at the altar of Sergio Aguero and David Silva, but the transition from Premier League to non-league has reshaped his beliefs.

He said “I have been a massive Man City fan all my life and have experienced some real highs and lows during that time but there’s something really special at Ashton.

“It’s a real family club and has some amazing people who contribute to its existence.

“I think the future is within the hands of the current board and the fans, but there’s no reason why the club can’t kick on – on and off the pitch – and have real success, whilst at the same time sticking to its values.”

Currently, Alan is more akin to cheering goals scored by Dale Johnson and Martin Pilkington.

His interaction with these players stretches way beyond adulation from the terraces, as recent events will testify.

Speaking to reporter sport, Alan detailed the reasons behind swapping the opulence of the Etihad Stadium for the rocky terrain of Hurst Cross. He said “My first game was against Halesowen Town at home which I attended with my son, Charlie.

“We had a fantastic day and were made to feel welcome by everyone at the club which cemented our current relationship with the club.”

Alan has been embraced as a friend, valued asset and influential figure, as opposed to a mere paying customer and commodity.

This warmth, combined with Alan’s business acumen, has led to a beneficial partnership with B&Q in Ashton.

An aluminium recycling scheme was established in November to help the club raise some much needed funds.

Alan, who is the general manager of the B&Q store, explained the reasons behind the initiative. “The project was set up to encourage the people of Tameside to do their bit for the environment and have somewhere local and accessible to drop the cans off which enabled us to recycle and raise cash with Ashton United in the community.”

The project, deep into its fifth month, is one of many ideas the club has adopted in order to strengthen the kitty.

In fact, Ashton recently celebrated an extremely successful memorabilia night that accumulated a total of £1,300.

The auction encompassed the very spirit of the club and was devised not only to raise funds, but to bring the community together under one roof.

Alan master minded the initiative along with club servant, Ken Philburn.

Reflecting on a brilliant evening, Alan said “The idea for the auction came from myself, and as a new fan of Ashton United it was great to see a large total raised.

“The money will be channelled into the infrastructure and if we achieve promotion this year then it will undoubtedly be a great boost.”

Unfortunately for the club, gaining promotion to the Conference North will have to wait for another year.

The Robins were beaten by Curzon Ashton during a penalty shootout in the play-off semi-final on Tuesday night, following a 1-1 draw at the end of extra time.

The players will undoubtedly be suffering heartache right now, but they can take pride in the way they have conducted themselves both on and off the pitch throughout the season.

An example of their active engagement came at the memorabilia event, where Paul Philips, Steve Halford, Sam Wilson and Ash Young all attended to lend their support.

Interacting with fans is a principle lauded by Alan, who emphasised the importance of accessibility within a club. He added “My son absolutely loves it, and the really special thing is the connection fans have with players.

“The accessibility between players and fans within non-league provides a strong basis to develop a good relationship.”

Alan described the clubs recent achievements as ‘nothing but remarkable’ – a sentiment shared in football circles.

The Robins certainly aren’t rocking at the moment, but a thirst to play will soon return.

And it goes without saying that Alan, along with Charlie, will be right behind them when they do.