Len Ashurst

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Len Ashurst
Personal information
Date of birth (1939-03-10) 10 March 1939 (age 82)
Place of birth Fazakerley, Liverpool, England
Position(s) Defender
Youth career
1954–1957 Liverpool
1957 Wolverhampton Wanderers
1957 Prescot Cables
Senior career*
1957–1970 Sunderland 409 (4)
1970–1973 Hartlepool 46 (2)
National team
1956–1957 England Youth 7 (0)
1961 England U23 1 (0)
Teams managed
1971–1974 Hartlepool
1974–1975 Gillingham
1975–1977 Sheffield Wednesday
1978–1982 Newport County
1982–1984 Cardiff City
1984–1985 Sunderland
1988–1989 Al-Wakrah
1989–1991 Cardiff City
1991–1992 Pahang
1992–1993 Weymouth
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Leonard Ashurst (born 10 March 1939) is an English former footballer, manager and football administrator.


Playing career

Early career

Leonard Ashurst was born on 10 March 1939 in Fazakerley, Liverpool, to parents Elsie and Joseph. [1] Initially a centre-half, he was moved to left-back by Liverpool Schoolboys as the team were short on naturally left-footed players, and helped the side to win the English Schools Trophy with an 8–1 aggregate win over Southampton Schoolboys. [2] He was signed to the ground staff at Liverpool in 1954. [2] He also worked as an apprentice compositor in the printing trade. [3] He won seven caps for the England youth team in the 1956–57 season. [3] Despite this international recognition he was not offered a professional contract by Liverpool manager Phil Taylor, and instead joined Wolverhampton Wanderers on amateur terms. [4] Whilst playing third team football for Wolves, Ashurst was approached by Sunderland coach George Curtis, who promised him a professional contract at the club. In order to gain release from Wolves, Ashurst told manager Stan Cullis he wanted to leave professional football to continue his printing apprenticeship and to play for local Lancashire Combination team Prescot Cables; Cullis agreed, and Ashurst subsequently moved from Prescot Cables to Sunderland. [5]


Ashurst signed professional forms at Sunderland on 27 December 1957, and made his debut for the reserve team the following day. [6] Manager Alan Brown handed him his first team debut on 20 September 1958, in a 2–0 defeat to Ipswich Town at Roker Park; Jim McNab and Cecil Irwin also made their senior debuts in the match. [7] Brown was in the process of dismantling the team that had been relegated the previous season, and Ashurst went on to feature in a total of 33 Second Division matches across the 1958–59 campaign. [8] He was called up to the England under-23 team on 15 March 1961, in a 4–1 victory over Germany at White Hart Lane. [9]

Following the abolition of the maximum wage in January 1961, Ashurst signed a new contract at £40-per-week the following summer. [10] He went on to make 458 appearances for the club; putting him second in the all time appearances list in Sunderland's history, and one of only two outfield players to top 400 appearances. He scored four Sunderland goals during his time at the club. In the late sixties, alongside Jimmy Montgomery, Cecil Irwin, Martin Harvey, Charlie Hurley and Jim McNab, Ashurst formed one of the most notable and most settled back fives in Sunderland's history.


After receiving a testimonial match against Newcastle United, Ashurst was given a free-transfer to Hartlepool where he became a player-manager. He ended his playing career in the 1972-73 season while at Hartlepool, and subsequently remained manager until May 1974 when he was appointed manager of Gillingham.

Managerial career

Ashurst managed Gillingham, Sheffield Wednesday, Newport County and Cardiff City before returning to Sunderland as manager in March 1984.

Ashurst was appointed manager of Newport County in 1978 following the departure of Colin Addison to West Bromwich Albion. Ashurst was manager from 1978 to 1982, the most successful period in the club's history. Newport were promoted to the Third Division in the 1979–80 season and won the Welsh Cup, entitling them to play in the 1980–81 season European Cup Winners' Cup, reaching the quarter finals. Ashurst was sacked by Newport County in February 1982 and Addison returned as team manager. The team, largely assembled by Ashurst, attained Newport County's highest post-war finish in the 1982–83 season, 4th in the Third Division, narrowly missing out on promotion.

His time as Sunderland manager was not successful, despite taking them to their first ever League Cup final. [11] Performance in the league was poor and Sunderland were relegated from the first division. Ashurst was sacked in May 1985.

After the Sunderland job, Ashurst went on to become a coach with Kuwait national football team and later the Qatar national football team. He was manager of Qatari club Al-Wakrah and also coached in Malaysia. [12]

After returning to England, he was assistant manager of Blackpool, and then in September 1989 he returned for a second spell as manager of Cardiff City following the departure of Frank Burrows. He spent two years in Ninian Park before resigning in 1991 as the team struggled both on and off the pitch. [13] His last managerial role was a one-year stay at Weymouth. [14]

Football administration career

From the mid-1990s, Ashurst became heavily involved in an administrator's role at the Football Association specifically with regards to the Academy system. [15] In 2002, he became a Premier League match delegate, and was tasked with assessing match officials. [16]

Personal life

Ashurst married Valerie in her home village of East Rainton in May 1961. [9]


Club statistics

Source: [17]

ClubSeasonDivisionLeague FA Cup League Cup Total
Sunderland 1958–59 Second Division 3301000340
1959–60 Second Division3202000340
1960–61 Second Division4015010461
1961–62 Second Division4204050510
1962–63 Second Division4004070510
1963–64 Second Division4216010491
1964–65 First Division 3922030442
1965–66 First Division3701020400
1966–67 First Division2800020300
1967–68 First Division2400010250
1968–69 First Division2000000200
1969–70 First Division3201010340
Hartlepool 1970–71 Fourth Division 1300000130
1971–72 Fourth Division2622020302
1972–73 Fourth Division703000100
Career total45563102505116

Managerial statistics

Source: [17]

Managerial record by team and tenure
Hartlepool 1 March 19711 June 1974164504173030.5
Gillingham 1 June 197415 October 197560212019035.0
Sheffield Wednesday 15 October 19755 October 1977104382838036.5
Newport County [18] 1 June 19788 February 1982194804866041.2
Cardiff City 3 March 19821 March 1984102461937045.1
Sunderland 4 March 198423 May 198566211629031.8
Cardiff City31 August 19891 May 199198303236030.6


Sunderland [19]
Newport County [19]
Cardiff City [19]

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  1. Ashurst 2009 , p. 38
  2. 1 2 Ashurst 2009 , p. 47
  3. 1 2 Ashurst 2009 , p. 51
  4. Ashurst 2009 , p. 52
  5. Ashurst 2009 , p. 55
  6. Ashurst 2009 , p. 59
  7. Ashurst 2009 , p. 60
  8. Ashurst 2009 , p. 61
  9. 1 2 Ashurst 2009 , p. 63
  10. Ashurst 2009 , p. 67
  11. "Cats the way to honour our Len". Hartlepool Mail. 26 September 2008. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
  12. "Winning Airs from Ashurst". New Strait Times. 16 January 1992. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
  13. "The seventies to the noughties". cardiffcityfc.co.uk. Archived from the original on 27 June 2016. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  14. Metcalf, Rupert (18 December 1992). "Ashurst brings breath of life". The Independent . London. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
  15. "Just put your shirt on Ashurst". Western Mail. 17 May 2004. Retrieved 9 October 2009.
  16. Ashurst 2009 , p. 18
  17. 1 2 Len Ashurst at the English National Football Archive (subscription required)
  18. Len Ashurst management career statistics at Soccerbase
  19. 1 2 3 Ashurst 2009 , p. 252