Town defender’s debt of gratitude to Dale

Fleetwood Towns Ashley Eastham
Fleetwood Towns Ashley Eastham

Ashley Eastham credits his three years at Rochdale for helping him develop as he prepares for his first return to Spotland.

The 25-year-old joined Dale from Blackpool in 2013 before returning to the Fylde coast over the summer.

He said: “I think I have come on leaps and bounds, especially over the last three years from when I joined Rochdale.

“I think from joining Rochdale at the start that was really when I turned from a young lad to a man. Becoming physical with the opposition, learning how to play Saturday, Tuesday, looking after your body and I think I have definitely come on leaps and bounds since then.

“I had the offer from the manager (Keith Hill) to stay there but I felt it was a time in my career to really assess my options.

“It was hard for me to leave but I felt the opportunity for me to come here and it is a growing club here at Fleetwood and I think I can be part of something really successful and that just tipped it over the edge for me really.

“I’ve made some great friends there and I have a lot of respect for the coaching staff there and I’m looking forward to seeing them but it is all about myself and Fleetwood Town.

“I speak to them every now and again. A couple of the boys have sorted my family out with some tickets which is good of them because it is not easy to get these days but I’m just looking forward to getting back there.

“I will have a good chat with them after the match but I’m fully focused on the 90 minutes and we will catch up afterwards.”

Rochdale are bottom of League One while Fleetwood are flying high in fourth spot.

Eastham is surprised his old club is yet to win a game and said his new side should not expect them to be a pushover.

“It is a bit of a surprise to me to be honest,” he admitted. “I know that squad inside out.

“There is a hell of a lot of quality there. It has been a young squad for the last three years, even while I was there, and it did not affect them; we had a promotion and two top-10 finishes.

“I know Keith well and I know he won’t be happy with the way they have started but they have been playing well so we can’t go there thinking we can just roll them over it is going to be a really tough match.

“They are a real threat in the attacking third so we need to be on it and try and get a clean sheet first and foremost and they have got the big men out wide and up front.

“If Joe Bunney or Peter Vincenti play they will probably be looking for the diagonal balls and Ian Henderson is a workhorse up front so they are going to cause us problems, but I have no doubt that if we are on it like we have been we can get a result.”