Nathan Ashmore has thanked Boreham Wood for throwing him a lifeline after hitting rock-bottom during his final days at National League rivals Ebbsfleet United.
Pictured in action for Fleet, the goalkeeper was axed from Garry Hill’s squad five games into the season and spent the next seven weeks out in the cold.
Back-to-back Player of the Year at Stonebridge Road, Ashmore had seen most of his team-mates leave in the summer and wanted out too. But with a year left on his contract, he was still a Fleet player by the time August rolled around again.
Ashmore, who is featuring in the BBC documentary ‘Shame in the Game’ about racism in football this week, told The Non-League Paper on Sunday: “The last year at Ebbsfleet was really hard, I couldn’t cope and I needed to get out of there.
“I wasn’t really helped with the situation I was in. I went through a bad patch where I didn’t enjoy football. I wasn’t playing well and I didn’t want to be there but I couldn’t get out in the summer and I had to face the reality that I had to stay there.
“I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I wanted to move on but I didn’t know where and I didn’t know how. I knew I had a year left on my contract and the situation got worse. My heart wasn’t in it and I knew that from the start of the season.”
Ebbsfleet lost their first five games, conceding 13 goals, and Hill criticised Ashmore’s fitness as well as his form after dropping him.
“That wasn’t nice and it could have been dealt with better. But I’m a senior player and I did what I had to do to get through it,” said the stopper.
“I took the opportunity to spend time with my family and friends and it was a blessing in disguise. I was in the gym every day and refreshed myself.
“I love football but I realised at that point there is more to life than football. I hit the reset button and got myself back into a mentally stable state.
Luke Garrard’s enthusiasm to get the deal done was all Ashmore needed to hear.
“I had a call from the gaffer at Boreham Wood and I was like ‘get me there now. I drove there the next day and signed the day after.
“That season, everything around me in football had been negative but I came off the phone and I felt a million dollars. I felt wanted and I felt worthy.”
“I kept a clean sheet in my first game and we won. I was mentally ready, I felt fit and from the word ‘go’ on that Saturday, I felt good. I felt fresh and it didn’t take long for the results and the clean sheets to come.”
Wood have only lost two of their 18 league games since Ashmore’s arrival and have quietly climbed into the National League play-offs. They boast the division’s third-best defensive record and were 14 matches unbeaten before last Saturday’s action kicked off.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Ashmore said. “It was a good team in the waiting and this was always going to happen whether I was there or not. I’m just glad I’ve helped.
“It’s a good bunch of lads, good quality in the changing-room, everyone demands off each other and everyone wants to win. It’s contagious. When you win one game it becomes a habit and you just want to keep it going. Hopefully we can.”
Ashmore added: “I’ve been given a lifeline to go again. I’ve been tested to my absolute limit, football-wise and home life. I’ve been at an all-time low over the last 14 months.
“Not getting paid [on time], everyone thinks ‘it’s only a couple of days’ but it really does affect you. When it goes on for so long and you’ve got no options left, it affects you mentally.
“When your only release is football and that starts to go to s***, you’ve got nothing. You’re like ‘what’s the point, why am I even trying?’
“It wasn’t great but I got through it. If you can get rid of all of that and iron everything out, it’s great and that’s what I did when I left Ebbsfleet. It was literally a restart and a new challenge.”
‘Shame in the Game’ has been available to watch on the BBC iPlayer from 6am on Wednesday February 12.
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