START as you mean to go on.
That is Neil Ashton’s philosophy ahead of Wrexham’s opening game of the new Conference campaign against Cambridge United at The Racecourse on Saturday.
After finishing the previous two seasons at this level in a disappointing mid-table position, hopes are high that manager Dean Saunders’ new-look Wrexham will challenge for promotion this term.
Left-back Ashton is once of the new recruits and the 25-year-old is eager for Wrexham to live up to expectations and pick-up three points before two successive away matches at Forest Green and Eastbourne Borough.
“It is going to be a big game against Cambridge,” said Ashton. “It is an important game to set the tone for the season.
“It is important we get three points to set us up for two away games. I don’t see why we can’t come out of them all with nine points.
“The aim is promotion and wherever we go we want to be picking up points, home and away.
“The management staff are ambitious and they want the club to do well, as the players do.
“If you are aiming for the top you have got to set your standards high.
“A few clubs have been spending a lot more money than Wrexham but with the stature of this club, we have got to be aiming for League Two.”
A free agent following the demise of Chester City, Ashton began training with Wrexham earlier this year following a hernia operation and he played in a couple of reserve team games during his trial.
He signed a month-to-month contract earlier this summer in a bid to prove his fitness and has set his sights on earning a longer deal.
“I am feeling good, very strong,” he said. “I just can’t wait for the big kick-off now.
“The injury feels fine, it has done since I have been here training and playing before the summer.
“I have come back in really good shape. I think I only had one week off after we actually left at the end of last season.
“I was straight back into training to get as fit as possible to show the gaffer what I can do and why he should give me a longer deal.
“Hopefully things work out for me. I need to play these six games to trigger off this contract.
“They have got to be competitive games, now I am just looking forward to starting.”
Prior to joining Chester City last summer, Ashton spent nearly five years at Shrewsbury Town, helping the Shropshire club reach the League Two play-off final in 2007 and 2009 where they were beaten by Gillingham and Bristol Rovers respectively.
In competition with youngster Johnny Hunt for the left-back spot against Cambridge, Ashton hopes having greater experience will work in his favour.
“Fingers crossed, hopefully I start on Saturday,” said Ashton. “Johnny has done really well in pre-season, he is a young lad with a really bright future.
“Hopefully my experience might just count and it is me that starts.”
If, as expected, Ashton does start against Cambridge, he is likely to have another summer signing, Nat Knight-Percival lining up ahead of him on the left flank.
And Ashton is pleased with how the partnership is developing: “I have forged a good partnership with Nat on the left,” he added. “The more time we play together the better the understanding.
“Hopefully, that can only improve as the season progresses.
“There are a few new signings here and we are gelling well together. I think it has made it a lot easier the lads are experienced.
“They have all settled in fine and the squad looks good.”