Player of the Day: Len Ashurst

by Stuart Vose

Long-serving defender in profile on his 75th birthday.

One of only two outfield players to have played more than 400 league games for the club, Len Ashurst is fully deserving of his place in Sunderland folklore.

Having joined Sunderland from Prescot Cables in December 1957, Ashurst made his debut the following September at home to Ipswich Town.

The left-back soon established himself as a key player, rarely missing a game and becoming an integral part of a strong Sunderland back line.

He was an ever-present member of the side which won promotion in 1964 and would remain at Roker Park until 1971, receiving a testimonial in the same year.

After 458 appearances for the club, Ashurst joined Hartlepool United as player-manager, officially retiring from playing in 1973.

Following spells in the respective hot seats at Gillingham, Sheffield Wednesday, Newport County and Cardiff, Len was appointed as Sunderland manager in March 1984.

He guided the club to the 1985 League Cup Final, but relegation to Division Two followed and Ashurst and the club parted company.

During his spell in charge at Roker Park, Ashurst signed defender Gary Bennett who would go on to be a hugely successful acquisition.

A spell in the Middle East with the Kuwait and Qatar national teams followed before Ashurst returned to England to take up the assistant manager’s position at Blackpool.

In September 1989 Ashurst began a second spell at Cardiff before rounding off his managerial career at Weymouth.