‘It’s been an unbelievable journey and I don’t want it to stop’ - Ashley Barnes

Ashley Barnes has enjoyed his journey from non-league to the Premier League
Ashley Barnes has enjoyed his journey from non-league to the Premier League

While North West Player of the Year Danny Ings has gone from the Conference South to representing his country, strike partner Ashley Barnes has achieved similar levels of success.

Last Thursday Ings netted twice for England Under 21s against Portugal at Turf Moor, just four years after representing Dorchester Town.

And Barnes has enjoyed his own journey of enlightenment. Eight years ago the 25-year-old was enjoying a prolific spell with Paulton Rovers in the Southern League First Division - the eighth tier of the English football pyramid.

In the 2006/07 campaign, Barnes had helped the club to the play-offs where they were beaten 4-1 by Taunton Town, though the striker had been enticed to Plymouth Argyle by Ian Holloway at that point.

Now, the former Brighton & Hove Albion hitman is scoring in the Premier League with the Clarets. It’s been some journey!

“I think I’ve played in nearly every league possible so it’s been an unbelievable journey and I don’t want it to stop,” said Barnes.

“It was Paulton Rovers. Those were the days and that’s what made me. It’s what’s brought me where I am now and if it wasn’t for them I don’t know where I’d be. I have every right to thank them.

“I had a few sniffs from clubs who wanted me when I was younger but I was happy playing men’s football. I didn’t want to go through the apprentice/youth side of it. I was happy playing men’s football and getting smashed around everywhere basically.

“The journey most people come from nowadays is through non-league rather than through the youth ranks.”

“I was 16 or 17. I was getting kicked to pieces but it toughened me up a little bit and I went from there.

“It wasn’t the best of leagues but it was a good time. You have to start somewhere and that’s where I started and grew.”

Barnes added: “Ever since school all I wanted to do was kick a football and play football in the Premier League. Obviously now I’ve got there and I don’t want it to end.

“I was at school and from there I went to Plymouth after Holloway took me there. I had to earn my trade, work hard and see where it took me.

“I still speak to quite a few of them. They’re all at a club now called Shepton Mallet. They all went there with the manager. I speak to them a lot still.

“They’re always asking for tickets. It’s like anyone - anything for free! I haven’t been back there for a while.”