Brian Ashton, the world-renowned rugby union coach, has spoken of his decision of to join Vale of Lune and sever his coaching links with Fylde.
Ashton, who led England to the World Cup Final in 2007, came back to his old club Fylde to act in a consultancy role three years ago, and after a successful spell at the Woodlands he is to link up with Lancaster club Vale of Lune, who play lower down the RFU ladder in North One West.
Ashton’s new role will be to act as mentor to the club’s young coach Fergus Owens.
He said: “I am a person who needs a change and a challenge.
“I am used to the mentor role as I work in that capacity for the (soccer) Premier League already, and it is a role I am expanding.
“I got into a conversation with Dave Bennetts, an official at Vale, who I have known for a long time, and he asked me if I wanted to be involved and help Fergus Owens. Fergus is a young coach who had to retire from the game early because of injury and is now coaching at Vale.
“I spoke to him to see how he felt about me coming to the club. I said that if he was in any way intimidated by my presence we would call the whole thing off, but he agreed to the idea.
“I will be his mentor and that will involve me coming to Vale at least once a week and maybe taking a session.
“I will also be at the club on Saturdays to see how Fergus reacts to the pressures of the job on a match day.”
The arrangement for Lytham-based Ashton is a perfect fit as he because he is becoming more involved in coaching at Royal Lancaster Grammar School.
Ashton played and coached at Vale of Lune in the days when the club was a pre-eminent force, not only in the north but also on a national stage – a far cry from their current status.
And he recalled making a contentious Vale debut as a raw teenager.
Ashton added: “I was only 15 at the time and played in a match against a London University team. My school wasn’t keen on me playing at the time but I went ahead with it anyway.
“It might have been all right except for the fact that I got knocked out near the end of the game.
“I had some explaining to do when I went back to the school and had to be treated in the sanatorium!”
After his playing career was over, Ashton had a spell as a coach at Vale’s Powderhouse Lane ground in the 1980s, prior to the introduction of national leagues.
Ashton recalled: “We finished top of what was called Merit Table C in those days, and Vale were ranked 21st in the country at that time.
“Vale had some very good players in those days and I seem to remember they had a winger on the team called Mark Nelson (these days Fylde’s head coach)!”
Ashton said he informed Fylde of his decision three or four weeks ago, prior to making his commitment to Vale.
He added: “I think I revolutionised the way Fylde played and I felt it was probably the right time to take on another challenge.
“I just hope that Fylde can take that kind of game on, and can continue to develop the way they have been playing and get even better at it.
“They have brought players like Gaz Rawlings back to the club and I hope they can maintain their position.”
Ashton, who will be 68 next month, had two spells with Fylde, first as a player in the 1970s, when he earned the reputation as one of the best scrum-halves never to have won an England cap.
As a coach, he espoused the philosophy of running, attractive rugby, working with the England and Ireland national teams as well as at Bath.
When Ashton linked up with Nelson at Fylde ahead of the 2010-11 campaign, the Woodlands club finished the season as runaway winners of National League Two North, going on to establishing themselves in the higher echelons of National League One in the past two seasons.