Walking tall to prove all the doubters wrong

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Matlock Town Academy full back Ashton Hall, who was shunned by Football League clubs because of his height, has won the academy’s Player of the Month award for August.

The under-17s’ captain, Hall has gone from strength to strength since joining the set-up at Matlock and has grown in stature and strength.

Hall began his career near Milton Keynes with a Sunday League side and moved to the area with his family at the age of six. The defender then spent six months with Brampton Town before being snapped up by Sheffield United.

He spent seven years with United before ultimately being released due to, at the time, being too short.

“It was heart-breaking,” Hall said.

From there Ashton went on to Rotherham United where, after spending several months, he was again released because of his height.

Since joining Matlock, however, Hall has gone through a growth spurt and now at age 16 stands at 6ft 1in.

“Being released for my size was the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard because now I’m 6ft 1 two years on from being released and I’m competing with the bigger players,” he jovially explained.

He has been with the academy for nine months and has shown rapid improvement over that time.

“I have progressed a lot as a footballer (since joining Matlock).

“I’m a lot fitter. Matlock’s run really well, the coaching is brilliant and the education is really good.

“You can’t beat the set-up really for a semi-professional football club. It’s outstanding,” Hall said.

Speaking about the captaincy, he added: “It’s a proud feeling because it means the coaches think you’re on top.

“At 16 it’s the age where you get signed for a club and you make it as a pro or it’s not and you play in the lower leagues.

“So if you’re captain it’s a really good opportunity to make it.”

However, Hall was keen to keep his eyes solely on his progression at Matlock for now.

“Recently I’ve been playing for the reserves, so this season I’m just trying to push to train for the first team,” he said.

Ashton was presented with his Player of the Month award prior to kick-off of the Under-17s’ FA Youth Cup game against Alfreton Town, and the loudest voice throughout was that of Hall’s step-dad, Richard Offler, bellowing words of encouragement to Hall.

“The person that’s been there the most for me is my step-dad, he’s helped me through a lot. He takes me to every training session and every match.

“He’s always shouting in the crowd and he’s always driven me to really want to make it as a footballer. All my family are supportive,” Hall said of his step-dad and family.

Offler, 51, was filled with pride when speaking of Ashton and also couldn’t speak highly enough of the Matlock set-up.

“He’s a strong individual, a good header of the football. He’s got two great feet and that’s thanks to Sheffield United because they consistently played him out of position at left back, he’s reaping the rewards of that now. He’s a well-rounded individual and he’s a nice lad.

“It’s immense that they’ve selected him as captain, Matlock obviously see something in him, a little bit of leadership maybe but I’m really proud of what he’s done,” Offler explained.

“At Sheffield United and Rotherham you couldn’t associate, you couldn’t approach a first team player so it’s a lot more of a family feeling that you get from this place.

“They’re excellent and they really are moving in the right direction,” he concluded.