Date: 28th September 2007 at 11:56pm
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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has talked about Dean Ashton’s England chances, and how he tried to get the Academy graduate for Arsenal.

Ashton has returned from a year out with an ankle break to show the country exactly what we knew already, and he is now truly the man of the moment. With Michael Owen and Emile Heskey out of the England frame with injuries, the spotlight has turned to Deano.

Alan Curbishley, Trevor Brooking and Ian Holloway have already called for Ashton’s call up in the past couple of days, and today they were joined by Arsene Wenger.

The three-time Premier League winning manager says there is no reason Ashton cannot perform for England; ‘In my opinion, yes he can play for England.

‘Certainly he will be involved now because you have Owen and Heskey out. The problem for Dean Ashton was he was injured for a long time. He showed a lot of character to come back.

‘I would not be surprised to see Steve McClaren in the stand tomorrow.’

Dean Ashton joined Crewe at the age of 12 after leaving Stoke City’s academy. By the age of 16 he had made his first team debut and went on to score 61 goals in 130 starts for the club, including 20 goals in his final 26 games. He signed for Norwich City in January 2005 in a £3million deal, before a £7million move to West Ham a year later following Norwich’s relegation. In his first 6 months at West Ham he helped them to the FA Cup final, in which he scored.

It was during his time in the Alex Academy though that Wenger first took a liking to Ashton, and admits he tried to sign him after witnessing him first hand in a FA Youth Cup semi-final at Highbury.

Wenger revealed: ‘When he was at Crewe, they played against us in the FA Youth Cup and he was outstanding.

‘I tried to get him here, but they had an agreement with Liverpool.

‘Ashton is an intelligent player and uses his body well and is good in the air.

‘We were looking at the time for someone who could give us something a bit different and help us play slightly more direct if needed, and we felt he could develop into that sort of player.

‘After, he went to Norwich and that was a surprise because suddenly he would not join us.’