Sheffield United super fan looks back on almost a century watching club through thick and thin

After the best part of a century watching his beloved Sheffield United, if anyone is Blades through and through it is super fan Roy Ashton.

Thursday, 31st January 2019, 1:10 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st January 2019, 1:13 pm
Roy Ashton is presented with a television from Fred Walters after he won 2nd prize in the weekly draw. Picture: NSST-28-01-19-Ashton-5

Come rain or shine, the great-grandfather-of-nine has been at Bramall Lane for almost every home game for an incredible 91 years. 

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Roy Ashton is presented with a television from Fred Walters after he won 2nd prize in the weekly draw. Picture: NSST-28-01-19-Ashton-5

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The only interruption came during the Second World War when he answered Churchill’s call to fight for the Allies in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East, and then against Mussolini’s forces in Italy.  

Roy has never kept a running total, but he must have seen more than 2000 matches spanning nine decades.

The 95-year-old dug through a treasure trove box of old pictures, programmes and memorabilia at his Waterthorpe home as he recounted a life of watching the beautiful game for The Star’s latest 'Remembering Sheffield' feature. 

He said: “Come rain or shine or snow or wind, I always go. I can't stay away, I just love football. 

Celebrating the Senior Blades 25th anniversary are committee members Roy Ashton, Mike Webb, David Hughes and Beryl Whitney. Picture: NSST-28-01-19-Ashton-16

“And for me Sheffield United are the best, there's no other team like them. I couldn't tell you why, I suppose that's just part of being a football fan.”

One of his earliest memories is of being a fresh-faced four-year-old stood on the terraces with his father John nestled between the other tall men in flat caps. 

This was way back in the 1920s, but Roy’s memory is remarkably sharp on the subject. 

Roy Ashton, pictured with the mascot. Picture: Marie Caley NSST-28-01-19-Ashton-11

He said: “I used to stand at the front behind the gates at pitchside so I didn't get hit by the ball. My dad used to stand a row or two back with a couple of fellas who were his mates.

“I remember a game against Coventry and we were 2-0 down but pulled it back to 3-2. But it was so foggy that you couldn't see the action at the other end. 

“We kept asking the goalkeeper what had happened as he had been talking to the defenders who could see. We could hear people cheering but couldn't see what was going on!”

He was also at the 1936 FA Cup Final against Arsenal, a 1-0 defeat, but Roy still enjoyed a “great day out” in which his young eyes marvelled at seeing the iconic Twin Towers at the old Wembley.

Roy, pictured with John Garrett and an Air Force cadet. Picture: NSST-28-01-19-Ashton-12

After surviving the Sheffield Blitz by taking cover in the basement of a house in Broomhall, Roy joined the army and served for four years overseas in which he worked in a ‘mobile garage’ and was tasked with fixing vehicles damaged in battle

He said: “I was glad to get back and go to the football again. I remember in those days when the cricket pavilion was there.

“You could watch the game from one end when United were kicking towards you, and then at half time walk around the pavilion, and then watch it from the stand at the other side so they were attacking towards you again.”

Later in life he became social secretary for the Senior Blades supporters club, a role which involved organising everything from celebrity speakers at their monthly meetings to sorting out day trips to the seaside.

He said: “We used to give the speakers who came to our meetings gifts. So if they were a man they got a tie and if it was a lady, they got a bouquet of flowers.

“We've had Sean Bean, Bobby Knutt, the weatherman Bob Rust – whom me and my wife met while on a cruise in the Mediterranean – all down at the Platinum Suite at the ground.

Senior Blades committee members. Picture: Marie Caley NSST-28-01-19-Ashton-10

“We also used to organise dances and trips to the east coast. They were fantastic days, which is why I did it for 16 years.

“It is still going strong today, I think they have about 500 members.”

Blades fans could argue long into the night over who is the club’s best ever player, but if anyone is best placed to settle the debate it is probably Roy.  

He said: “They ran a poll asking for the best player and a lot of people said it was Tony Currie. He was good, but for me the best was Jimmy Hagan.

“It is only because those who voted weren't old enough to remember Jimmy – apart from me of course. He was a great all round player and fantastic at dribbling in particular.”

In later years, Roy's family members – which includes two children, five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren - have joined him from time to time at the games.

He and his wife Gertrude, aged 91, were also invited to enjoy a meal with Kevin McCabe and other club directors when they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary.

After nine decades watching the team, and despite advancing years, there is no chance of Roy becoming an armchair fan.

He said: “I like going now as much as ever because we have a really good team.

“I must say I like the kits now because they are all white on the back so I can see the numbers.

“I am blind in one eye and when they had striped kits at the back I couldn't make out who they were.

“But now when someone says to me 'He played well' I ask for the number and know who they are talking about.

“I'll keep going as long as I can.”

Roy pictured with former television weatherman Bob Rust, who came and did a talk for the group. Picture: Marie Caley NSST-28-01-19-Ashton-7
Roy Ashton pictured with a programme he had signed after travelling down to Exeter on the coach with the players in 1984. Picture: Marie Caley NSST-28-01-19-Ashton-4
A few of the match day programmes Roy as collected over the years. Picture: NSST-28-01-19-Ashton-14
Armistice day 2018. Picture: Marie Caley NSST-28-01-19-Ashton-13