Thursday, April 25, 2024

Ashley Westwood rejuvenated by good Charlotte move

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 24 Feb 2024

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Ashley Westwood was on the brink of retirement at Burnley but the rejuvenated midfielder now wants to play into his forties as he lives the American dream with Charlotte FC.

In April 2022, the distraught 33-year-old suffered a devastating ankle injury as he challenged for the ball with West Ham’s Nikola Vlasic.

For a while Westwood’s 286th Premier League appearance looked set to be the last match he would ever play.

The gruelling journey back to fitness took its toll on the usually upbeat midfielder, who did not play again for Burnley before leaving last January.

Westwood took a calculated gamble by moving to Charlotte, playing in what was their second Major League Soccer season, and could not be happier with the outcome.

“It’s incredible,” the smiling Charlotte skipper said. “Even last year I was close to retiring, very close.

“I broke my ankle, made a mess and then it got to halfway through the rehab and I was like ‘I’ve had enough, I’m done’.

“Even before that I was getting fed up with it. With what Burnley did, it was just constantly trying to stay above the relegation.

“I had like 10-12 years of it, and it gets a lot. Mentally it gets tough, so then I fell out of love with it.

“But then (came) the opportunity to come here and it’s just the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Westwood says Burnley “still hold a special place in my heart” and returned to visit Vincent Kompany and his former team-mates over Christmas.

The Crewe youth product is eternally grateful to the Clarets for allowing him to join Charlotte – somewhere he sees as his long-term home having been unable to place it on a map until not so long ago.

“It’s given me a massive boost, a new lease of life,” the former Aston Villa midfielder said of life in the Queen City, where Dean Smith was recently appointed head coach.

“I could have some regrets because I asked to leave Burnley and Vinny (Kompany) was brilliant, he let me go.

“I was honest with him. I went in and said ‘listen, this has come about’ but they needed to get me on a free because of the wage structure.

“So, I spoke to Vinny and he said ‘we don’t want to lose you but I respect the decision’ and he sent me on my way.

“And it has given me a new lease of life. It’s been the best thing for me and my family – the kids are thriving, the wife’s enjoying it.

“Hopefully I’ll be going until I’m 40. I want to stay here a long time.”

Westwood moved to MLS at an exciting time for the sport in North America, with the 2026 World Cup following on the back of Lionel Messi’s blockbuster move to Inter Miami.

Little wonder some former team-mates, from England internationals to Premier League regulars, have expressed interest in following him across the pond.

“You’ve got Messi, (Luis) Suarez and even now I get texts from mates saying ‘what’s it like? I’d love to do it’, so it’s getting more appealing,” Westwood added.

“They’ve got the World Cup here and if they get that right it could take off. There’s a lot around the budgets and the way the wage cap is.

“Our owner is willing to do it (and pay more), he wants to go for it, but it’s just about getting all the other owners on board. If they get right, it can take off.”

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