Returning home following four years in Nottingham studying for a degree in Pharmacy (MPharm, Master of Pharmacy with Honours) at University of Nottingham, 22-year-old Jenny Ashton, born in the pit mining villages of County Durham, this summer became the fifteenth signing at FA Women’s National League Division One North side, Chester-le-Street Town.
This weekend though, it will be a hint of déjà vu for Ashton, the Determining Round of this season’s FA Women’s National League Cup competition having drawn the Cestrians, with another of the league’s newcomers, and Midlands outfit, Notts County Women.
Both sides lost their opening game of the season, Chester-le-Street losing 3-0 at home to local rivals, Durham Cestria, whilst Notts County were felled 6-2 on the road at Lincoln City, the two will be looking at this in order to kick-start their respective campaigns.
As for Ashton though, her time at UoN was certainly a mixture of both business (degree) and pleasure (football), saying: “UoN has one of the best programs, globally, for what I wanted to study.
“It’s not your standard degree, and, over a four-year course, was the perfect mix of both application, and science, along with a lab-based dissertation which I completed in my third year.
“I do feel that my time at university was more football than degree,” she smiled, “although it was a pretty balanced split between the two.”
Having played football, locally, for a number of years prior to heading off to university, junior, and schools football teams within the county, Ashton would soon find herself moving into a bigger environment when she moved away.
Timing though, it wasn’t brilliant, she heading to university right before the global pandemic caused havoc, and for Ashton, like everyone else, life came to a standstill quite quickly.
“It was a massive shock, for all of us,” admitted Ashton.
“I’d started at UoN not long before the pandemic started, and, all of a sudden, everything went online, and we were just writing essays really – there was some drastic changes made.
“Not only did it disrupt my academic work, but also playing football, BUCS; so, when we got back to playing, it was a huge relief to not only play, but also be promoted to the Premier Division at the end of my third year.
“It was a huge step for us to take, but we deserved to get there.”
The end of last season though, it couldn’t have gone much better for Ashton and her cohorts, a runners-up spot in the league, narrowly losing out to rivals Loughborough, UoN exacted revenge in the National Championships, and in some style.
On BUCS Big Wednesday, UoN romped to victory in an emphatic final, hitting the league champions for six without reply, five of those coming in a somewhat dominant, first-half display form the Green and Gold.
UoN were certainly helped by an inspired performance in front of goal from midfielder Clara John, who bagged a brace and earned the player of the match, whilst Ashton also put in a performance of her own.
“Last season was my final year at UoN and it went really well,” beamed Ashton.
“Although we didn’t quite win the league, Loughborough took that on goal-difference, we did get some measure of payback on BUCS Big Wednesday.
“We knew their threats, but we weren’t too worried about that, and just had to do what we did best.”
Now though, all of that, it’s in the past, not only for Ashton and a number of the students who’ve now departed for pastures new.
For Jenny Ashton, that meant a return to her native north-east, and a trainee year working full-time in a job, career, which she knows and loves.
It’s because of that, her employment, Ashton’s playing options were somewhat limited, not that she’s let that faze her, and her progression on the football field.
“Chester-le-Street was the best fit for me really as I had to work training, playing, travel etc, around my work schedule,” explained Ashton.
“I’m excited for this new season though, and looking forward to getting going again.
“It’s a challenge, moving up a level, but we’re ready and we want to put out a statement, get points on the board, and play good football.
“I’m the same, personally, I just want to be able to go out there and play football, with a smile on my face.”
As for this Sunday’s League Cup clash, and the visit of Notts County, Ashton finished by saying: “They’ve just been promoted as well, so I’m really looking forward to that one.
“That and they’ve a few players I know as well, so it’ll be good to play against familiar faces.”
Jenny Ashton’s Chester-le-Street Town welcome Notts County to Moor Park in the Determining Round of the National League Cup on Sunday, 27 August, KO 14:00.
*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).
*Main image @UniofNottingham Ashton in action for the University of Nottingham Football team.