Josh Askew: Joining Chester, Blackburn, loan spells and life at Salford

Credit: Chester Football Club

You’ve just signed for Chester from Boston United. What does it feel like to sign for Chester?

I’m over the moon. It’s been a long time coming to be honest as when I knew that Bernard and Jonno had moved to Chester, I have always wanted to join the club. It’s been a difficult time for me lately so I am just so happy to be back working with both of them because personally I thrive under their leadership.

You are playing for free at the moment due to the financial impact that Covid has had on Chester and every other club within football. Was that a hard decision to make?

Yes I am, I’ve come from a non-contract at Boston where I was getting paid to take this opportunity at Chester to be unpaid for now until the circumstances at the club improve and I don’t regret that decision one bit.

A lot of people might not believe that but it’s fact. At the end of the day, you’ve got to do what has to be done and for me the whole reason for that is that I need to playing every week at this stage of my career.

Not being in the squad at Boston and being on the bench game after game wasn’t acceptable for me so I knew I had to go and do something about it and luckily for me Chester was the option.

In terms of the rest of the season, is your plan to get your head down and play as many games as you can in order to earn a deal at the club longer term?

Credit: Chester football club

110%. I would love to have a club like Salford where I was able to play at for more than one year and have stability. I want Chester to be that club as I want nothing more in my career to be settled at a club and work as hard as I can for the fans and the community. I want to achieve that rather than be someone who moves from club to club.

Chester are a massive club and with the club having moved down the leagues, I want to play a part in aiding the club in moving back to where they belong.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love nothing more than to have a full time contract from day one but I back myself and more importantly I know that Jonno and Bernard are backing me to earn that in time.

You came through at Blackburn Rovers and turned professional at the club. What are your memories of the Ewood park club?

I spent 9 years at the club and I absolutely loved everything about the club. The staff were incredible, from the kitmen and the receptionists to my coaches.

During my time the club went from the Premier League to Championship to League One. People will classify that as a downfall but in my opinion if Paul Lambert would have stayed and not left in the summer when he did then I think I’d have made more first time appearances as I was training with the first team at 16 and holding my own. So for me that was the breakthrough that I needed.

Then, Owen Coyle came in when Paul Lambert left and he didn’t give me any sort of chance. That’s football I suppose but it was disappointing and a tough finish after 9 years there.

You had loan spells at Ramsbottom United and Warrington town. How did those loans help you grow as a player and as a person?

Credit: Ramsbottom United

The club helped me a lot though over my time by allowing me to go on loan to Ramsbottom United and Warrington Town. If I’m honest at those clubs that’s where I really learned about the game as I never really enjoyed playing in reserve teams.

Non league games have intensity, jobs are on the line and they helped improve my game tenfold compared to reserve games which could be passive. I would recommend non league to anyone as it’s a great grounding. People say it can make or break you but I rolled my sleeves up and have it my all for both clubs on loan. I loved every minute of those loan spells.

When the time game to leave Blackburn rovers, why did you choose to join Salford and how do you reflect upon your time there?

It’s a funny story really. Salford were a team I was aware of as my teammate at Blackburn, Lewis Hardcastle played there on loan when they went on that great FA Cup run and beat Notts County on the BBC.

I remember watching the game in my digs at Blackburn and watching one of my mates smashing it live on tv made me want some of that.

Credit: Ingy The Wingy

I then left Blackburn for a trial at Bury and Bury were set to offer me a deal. At the time they were at Carrington and it was perfect for me. However, Chris Brass who was there at the time pulled me in to the office and said although we want to offer you a deal, your best option is Salford to help you progress long term as they are offering you a two year deal.

Following that conversation, I was signing for Salford City in what seemed like an instant and I was raring to get started.

Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley were the managers for part of your time at Salford. What were they like as a managerial duo?

I find it difficult to put it into words if I’m honest. They make you feel 10 feet tall and they propel your confidence so that it couldn’t be any higher.

They back you 110% and they are just great to be around. They are there for anything off the pitch as well as on it and they’ve been like father figures to me.

When I went to Salford I was 19 so to me those two characters genuinely were like fathers as were the older players in the team. It helped me aettle in instantly. They tell the truth, they tell you things as they are and as a footballer honesty is all that you want.

Trust me, I’ve experienced dishonesty in the game before and it puts you down. So to have managers like Bernard and Jonno tell you what you need to hear rather than what you always want to hear is superb. I thrive under their leadership and I have a lot to thank them for. The best way I can repay them is by playing for Chester for free to earn my contract and thank them for their faith in me now and in the past.

At Salford, cameras followed everyone from the owners to the manager and players around for various documentaries. Was it strange having them around or did the novelty wear off quickly?

It really was strange at first. I’ll be honest I was bit gutted as I scored two goals that season and the camera’s went around for my first one…

To be fair though, we quickly got used to it and it wasn’t a distraction. You forget the camera’s are there. Plus, there’s nothing better than being able to watch yourself on Sky in a documentary.

Everyone was the way they really are and didn’t play up to the camera’s. Sure, the managers are passionate as you can see but the documentary only shows a small part of their whole character. They care about their players and to be fair to them they don’t care about what people think of them.

You also had a loan spell at Curzon Ashton during your time at Salford. How would you describe your time there?

At the time I wanted to join Chester on loan and Kiddiminster Harriers were also interested in me. The club blocked both moves for whatever reason and I was told that I was going to Curzon.

I have to be honest and say that I struggled for the first six months at Curzon due to the passing of my grandad who died two weeks before the season started. He was a second father figure to me. I owe him so much for my success so when I lost him if really hurt me. He was the first person in my close family to pass which was hard to cope with.

I fell into what I believe now to be a depressive state. I pride myself on always giving my best. However, during that time I didn’t want to work hard, I didn’t want to get up in the morning and in all honesty I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders.

I was also trying too hard to get upto speed and ended up having a stress fracture in my lower back.

I felt guilty deep down as Curzon didn’t get the best version of me as I struggled off the field.

Credit: Curzon Ashton Football Club

That being said, by Christmas, I was able to turn it around. I got back into full fitness, sorted my head out as best I could and all of a sudden my performance level rocketed at the club and I was flying.

I was buzzing to be back playing football especially after feeling let down by Salford as when I left the club, I felt discarded as if they didn’t care about me after what I had given to them.

I have them used the pandemic lockdown to fully concentrate in keeping fit and well so to now be at Chester is something I’m so excited by as it’s a club that I’ve wanted to play for since my Salford days.

You’ve played with many talented players over the years. How would you say are the best you’ve played with?

I’d have to Lewis Hardcastle who is now at Barrow. He controlled games on his own at times from central midfield and was a joy to play with.

As well as Lewis, Jack Redshaw has to be up there. Anthony Dudley as well. Carl Piergianni was a great leader too.

Now at Chester, George Glendon, Declan Weeks and Danny Elliot are all superb. Very good footballers and great people as well.

You’ve also had some tough opponents over the years. Who would you say are the best you’ve played against?

Credit: ArdFern

I’ve played against the likes of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Mason Mount. All incredible talents and when you see what they’ve went on to achieve in the game it’s no surprise. It was a pleasure to play against them and I’m determined to play against played like them again in the future.

As well as those stars, many footballers in non league are superb. Non-League is disrespected in some quarters and that’s wrong. They’re are so many footballers at non league level who should be in the football league.

Conor DiMaio is one of those. I’ve played with him and against him. He is a joy to play with and to watch play the game. How he isn’t in the football league I do not know.

Lastly, which managers and coaches have had the biggest impact upon your career so far?

Without a doubt, Bernard and Jonno. Looking back, I only had one full season under them and I want to work with them in the long term at Chester as I learned a lot from them and from my time at Blackburn.

I always advise players to go on loan to non league as guys like Bernard and Jonno push you on each and every day to earn a career in the game.

Published by Callum McFadden

Football CFB founder. Freelance football writer & broadcaster of over 350 interviews with professional players and managers across all levels of football.

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