County news: Stalwart Marsh prepares for 500th game
Loyalty is a word you rarely hear banded about in modern football, except for when it comes to a player like Ashley Marsh.
All being well, the Hassocks captain should make his 500th senior appearance for the Robins this weekend, becoming only the third player in the clubs history to do so.
The other two were Mickey Turner and Chris Hewitt, both stalwarts of the side in the early 00’s but whom arrived from other clubs. Marsh has played his entire career at the Beacon, having joined as a fresh faced youth team player 15 years ago.
Former youth team boss Dave Charker was delighted with the new arrival. “Ashley was a fantastic player and soon became captain of the side as he led by example, giving 100% in everything he did.”
That attitude soon caught the eye of third team manager Simon Maskell, with Marsh quickly progressing through the ranks to become part of Maskell’s side that lifted the Mid Sussex League’s Montgomery Cup in 2004 against Old Varndeanians.
“Dave John recommended we take a look at this guy from the youth team. I don’t remember him being the best player in that side at the time but he understood his strengths and wasn’t complicated. It was obvious at even 17 and 18 he was a leader on the pitch which, for someone so young to be so consistent, marked him out.”
John had already marked him out, and Marsh found himself thrown into the first team picture at the start of the 2004-05 season. Marsh himself takes up the story. “It was a bit of a shock for me to bypass the reserves and go straight into the first team, but Dave put a lot of faith in me in his famous 3-5-2 formation of the time and I will always be grateful for that. I haven’t really looked back from then, but I’d never have believed you if you said I’d go onto play 500 times.”
John himself never had any doubts. “Ashley is a fantastic team player who will always give you 100% although that does mean sometimes he is a disciplinary nightmare. If he didn’t spend so much time suspended he’d be on 600 games by now.”
Marsh doesn’t disagree, adding “Dave probably wishes he could have sewn my mouth up the amount of times I have been in trouble for dissent.”
Within 15 games of his first team debut he scored what remains one of the best goals that the Beacon has seen to this day. Regular supporter and former programme editor Paul Elphick describes it as “as good a 30 yard volley into the top corner that you will ever see from an uncompromising club legend.”
It looked like Hassocks had a goal scoring defender on their hands at that point, which couldn’t be further from the truth with Marsh only adding three more goals in the 480 odd appearances which have followed!
He has however been picked as captain by every manager he has played under - not just John but subsequent bosses John Suter, Mickey Jewell and most recently Mark Dalgleish and Phil Wickwar.
Dalgleish in particular is effusive in his praise. “In the modern game it is uncharacteristic for someone to be so loyal to one club for such a long time. It is a massive achievement which will take some surpassing.”
Marsh himself lists the 2011-12 season under Jewell as his favourite, when Hassocks secured fourth spot in the Southern Combination Premier Division – the clubs highest ever finish. “We had a great group of players and were in title contention for the only real time during my time at the club.”
“We also got to the semi finals of the RUR Cup which is the only time I’ve reached the last four of any competition, which is hardly surprising given how we normally do in the cup competitions.”
“In 2005-06 I remember us being in the quarter finals of four cups, and then within a month we were out of every single one of them. That is just typical Hassocks.”
“It’s quirks like that that make it a fantastic place to play. It’s a great group of people behind the scenes which is party why I’ve been here for 15 years now.”
It may seem like he has been around forever, but Marsh remains under 30 years old. Next in sight is Turner’s club record of 594 appearances in senior football. Injuries and suspensions withstanding, Marsh could pass that in the next couple of seasons, which would be a record that should stand the test of time.
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