Former Ashford players who progressed to the Football League

Dannie Bulman

Dannie Bulman was the first player to move from Short Lane into the Football League when he signed for Wycombe Wanderers in the summer of 1998 for a fee of £10,000 which was a record transfer fee involving a Combined Counties League club. Dannie’s legacy is a significant one, as the fee helped the club to construct the Main Stand.

 

He became a cult hero among the Wanderers faithful after scoring on his debut with his first touch… which was off his backside! Dannie played almost 250 times for the Chairboys’ First Team before moving to Stevenage Borough, who were then in the Conference, in 2004. A three-year spell at Broadhall Way was ended by a loan move to Crawley Town, which was then made permanent. Dannie moved to Oxford United in 2009 and helped them to win promotion back to the Football League, before returning to Crawley and helping the Red Devils to the Conference Championship. He made over 230 appearances for the Sussex club over three spells at the club before signing for AFC Wimbledon in the summer of 2014.

 

Having quickly established himself as a regular for the Dons, he played in midfield in their televised FA Cup Third Round tie against Liverpool in January 2015. By the summer of 2016, Dannie had made almost 100 appearances for AFC Wimbledon, including playing for them at Wembley in the League 2 Play-Off Final and leaving the National Stadium with a winner’s medal after Wimbledon won 2-0. Dannie then made 38 appearances for the Dons in League One, before returning to Crawley Town yet again ahead of the 2017-18 season. He remains a regular member of the Sussex club’s First Team.

 

Brett Johnson (via Aldershot Town)

Brett Johnson started his career at Ashford Town (Middlesex) before being signed by (then non-League) Aldershot Town in 2004. An impressive season for Aldershot saw Johnson attracting interest from several League clubs. He eventually signed for Northampton Town. He managed just 26 league games in three seasons for the Cobblers, which also included loan spells at Gravesend & Northfleet and Grays Athletic.

 

It was announced that he would be released by Northampton Town at the end of the 2007–08 season, when his contract expired. Brett signed a one-year contract for Brentford on 5 August 2008 after a successful trial spell. He was released at the end of the season and moved to AFC Wimbledon, playing alongside fellow former Tangerine Ricky Wellard in the 2011 Football Conference Play-off Final, which Wimbledon won on penalties. He returned to the Football League with the Dons, before spending time on loan at Cambridge United. He joined Woking in August 2012 and made 60 appearances for them before signing for Margate in 2014. He remained with “The Gate”for three seasons, although his time at Hartsdown Park was marred by a serious knee injury.

 

Jermaine McGlashan

Jermaine McGlashan signed for Ashford in December 2009, having helped Merstham to eliminate the Ash Trees from the Surrey Senior Cup. The tricky winger had played for Staines Town and Bracknell Town before spells at Kingstonian and Raynes Park Vale. Jermaine quickly became a fans favourite for his pace and willingness to take on defenders, but his spell at Ashford ended on a low note, after it transpired that he had missed a crucial home fixture against Canvey Island in order to play as a triallist for Bristol Rovers, who were subsequently fined by The FA for making an “illegal approach” to the player. At the end of the 2009-10 season, Jermaine participated in trials for Hayes & Yeading United and Southampton before signing for Aldershot Town, for whom he made 25 appearances in his first Football League season and agreed a contract extension. Having enjoyed an impressive start to the 2011-12 season, Jermaine was transferred to Cheltenham Town for a reported fee of £60,000, helping the Robins reach the promotion play-off Final at Wembley, which they lost to Crewe Alexandra. Jermaine also helped his club reach the play-offs in 2012-13, where they were defeated by Northampton Town.

 

Jermaine left Cheltenham Town at the end of the 2013-14 season and moved to Gillingham on a free transfer, winning the “Man of the Match” award on his home debut. He spent two years with the Gills, making 57 appearances and scoring five goals before signing for Southend United in the summer of 2016. After two years at Roots Hall, Jermaine was released and subsequently moved to Swindon Town/

 

Femi Ilesanmi

Like Jermaine McGlashan, Femi Ilesanmi had a short spell with the club, signing in February 2010 after playing a few matches on trial for Dagenham & Redbridge during a career that had begun at AFC Wimbledon and had also included time on the books at Queens Park Rangers. The Daggers monitored the full-back’s performances during the final months of the 2009-10 season in which Femi scored a bizarre goal in the last game, a 6-2 defeat to Harrow Borough which, when coupled with other results, meant Ashford Town were relegated for the first time.
Femi’s 14 appearances in Tangerine & White were enough to earn him a contract with Dagenham & Redbridge. Having had a loan spell in the Conference with Histon, Femi has gone on to play League One football and was sufficiently highly-rated at Dagenham to be given a further two-year contract. Having made 133 appearances for Dagenham & Redbridge since leaving Ashford, Femi was released by the Essex club in the summer of 2014 and signed for fellow League Two club York City. Femi made 70 appearances for the Minstermen in his two years with the club, but was released after City were relegated to the National League (formerly the Football Conference or Conference Premier). He returned South, spending 2016-17 with Boreham Wood and then moving to Dover Athletic in 2017-18.

Byron Harrison (via Carshalton Athletic)

Byron Harrison had played for a number of clubs without ever seeming to settle before Mark Butler brought him to Ashford. The tall striker settled quickly at the club and scored eight goals in the final weeks of the 2007-08 season. Byron added 26 goals the following season, including the opening goal in the Surrey Senior Cup Final win over Woking. Byron continued this form through the opening months of the 2009-10 season and finished that campaign as the club’s leading goalscorer with 19 goals, despite withdrawing his services on the evening of a match at Horsham in a dispute with the club and never playing in Tangerine & White again. His record was 53 goals in 109 appearances.

 

By that point, a number of Football League clubs had watched Byron regularly, but only Southend United had offered a trial, which was not then followed up. Kettering Town of the Football Conference did offer the striker a professional contract, but this was turned down and Byron instead linked up with former Ashford boss Mark Butler, who paid a small fee to bolster his squad as he endeavoured to keep Carshalton Athletic in the Isthmian League Premier Division. In a twist of fate, it was a Byron Harrison hat-trick which helped Carshalton to survive on the final day at Ashford’s expense. Perhaps surprisingly, Byron started the 2010-11 season at Carshalton and scored freely, which earned him a move to newly-promoted Stevenage FC.

 

He settled in quickly, and helped the League new boys to an immediate promotion to League One, via the play-offs. During the January 2012 transfer window, Byron became AFC Wimbledon’s record signing when he moved to Kingsmeadow for an undisclosed five-figure fee. Byron spent a year with the Wombles before signing for Cheltenham Town on 31st January 2013, linking up with fellow former Tangerine Jermaine McGlashan.

 

He scored 15 goals for the Robins in his first full season at Whaddon Road, but lost his place in the side after Paul Buckle was appointed manager of the club in November 2014 and was placed on the transfer list.

 

In January 2015, Byron moved to Chesterfield but struggled with the Spirites, making only 15 appearances in a season-and-a-half with the Derbeyshire club. Byron scored three goals in seven appearances in a temporary return to Stevenage towards the end of the 2015-16 season, before signing for National League club Barrow in July 2016. During 2017-18, Byron had a short spell on loan with Sutton United, scoring twice in three appearances.

 

Ricky Wellard

A hugely popular local lad, who emerged from the club’s youth system, “Bones” (so called because of his tall, yet slight, build) was an integral part of the First Team while still in his teens and played a total of 190 times for Ashford, scoring 26 goals from central midfield, the last of which was a 30 yard volley to equalise in the 2008-09 Surrey Senior Cup Final, which Ashford won. He was highly-rated both inside the club and at rival clubs and was widely considered the best midfielder in the Isthmian League during his time at Ashford. He also won plaudits for the quality of the pitch, in his dual role as the groundsman at the club!

 

At the end of the 2008-09 season, Ricky was transferred to AFC Wimbledon after protracted negotiations between the clubs. Wimbledon had been long-term admirers of Ricky but the length of time it took the transfer to be completed caused him a few issues with his new club’s support. Early in 2011, Ricky moved to Cambridge United on loan and it looked as if he might be on his way out of Kingsmeadow, but he returned to Wimbledon to reclaim his place and was in the starting XI for their promotion play-off Final win over Luton Town, after which he signed a new contract with the Wombles. However, after making 78 appearances for AFC Wimbledon, he was released in May 2012 and almost immediately signed a two-year deal with Cambridge United. After less than a season at the Abbey Stadium, Ricky moved on loan to Salisbury City of the Confernece South and the move was then made permanent. Ricky scored for the Whites in their promotion play-off semi-final against Dover Athletic, helping the club to reach the Conference Premier.

 

Although he played regularly for Salisbury City, Ricky left the club when it encountered major financial problems and signed for Sutton United in the Conference South. He would spend a single season with United, before returning to the top tier of English non-league football in the summer of 2015 by signing for Welling United in the National League. His spell in Kent started well and for a while Ricky held the captaincy of the Wings. However, a change of management saw “Bones” fall out of favour after the manager who made him club captain was dismissed. After eight months with Welling, Ricky agreed a settlement with the club on the remainder of his contract and joined National League South club Hemel Hempstead Town for the remainder of the 2015-16 season. In June 2016, Ricky signed for National League South club Wealdstone for whom he played for two seasons. Ricky has also worked as an Academy Coach at Sutton United.

Craig Ross

Not many players make their Football League debut at the age of 27 but Craig Ross has built his career on patience. As a youngster, Craig spent time in the academies of Southampton, Arsenal, Reading, Crystal Palace, Colchester United and Woking before playing open-age football with Ashford – initially in the Reserves.

 

Having taken the number one shirt from Paul Burgess, Craig was part of Ashford’s Surrey Senior Cup winning squad of 2009, leaving the club after it was relegated to Step 4 the following year. Craig’s career continued on an upward trajectory as he moved on to Carshalton Athletic and Hampton & Richmond Borough, then into the National League with Cambridge United, Eastbourne Borough and Whitehawk. Having returned to the top tier of non-league football with Macclesfield Town, Craig starred in the Silkmen’s televised FA Cup win over Oxford United and was in the Town squad which reached Wembley in the FA Trophy. After a season at Moss Rose, Craig made the step up to League Two by joining Barnet, for whom he made 33 League appearances during 2017-18.

 

Played professionally abroad:

Guiseppe “Joe” Funicello

Joe Funicello was a popular member of the club, who was born in Italy but raised in America. Although Joe was a regular in the Reserve Team during his time at Ashford, he made just one competitive First Team appearance, and that was as a substitute. Joe signed for Corinthian-Casuals before returning to America and signing for Real Maryland Monarchs.

After a short spell in Maryland, Joe moved to Icelandic club Thor Akureyri, for whom he made an immediate impact and played in the UEFA Europa League, earning himself a transfer to Finnish top-flight side IFK Mariehamm in August 2010. He helped IFK to avoid relegation and signed a one-year contract extension but fell out with his manager and moved to Vaasan Palloseura (VPS), attracting a huge amount of attention in the Finnish media for exposing issues within IFK’s squad. Having completed the 2011 season with VPS, Joe returned to Thor Akureyri, playing 19 of their 24 league games. In August 2013, Joe moved back to Iceland from Finland, joining FF Jaro until the end of the 2013 season, whereupon he retired from professional football. He has established a company called SoccerViza, which aims to help players become professionals and is a qualified coach.