Ashton looks set for the exit door

HAMMERS striker Dean Ashton is set to leave West Ham before the start of the new season, the Recorder understands. With England international Carlton Cole now established as the number one striker at the club, and with the prospect of Eidur Gudjohnsen and

HAMMERS striker Dean Ashton is set to leave West Ham before the start of the new season, the Recorder understands.

With England international Carlton Cole now established as the number one striker at the club, and with the prospect of Eidur Gudjohnsen and Mancini arriving at Upton Park, the injury-prone striker looks like being surplus to requirements.

The most significant development occurred on Monday when the 25-year-old did not travel with the rest of the team to Austria for the pre-season tour.

Manager Gianfranco Zola took his entire first team squad, including Scott Parker and Valon Behrami, who are still injured, as he attempted a team-bonding exercise with the players, which also included new signing Luis Jimenez.


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Ashton was omitted from the trip, along with Terry Dixon, who apparently is not considered to be in the first team squad.

Ashton has been attracting interest from Stoke City manager Tony Pulis, although if Premier League teams became aware of his availability, he is likely to be a target for a number of clubs.

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The former Norwich City man cost West Ham a then club record fee of �7.25million when he arrived in January 2006, and it looked like money well spent as he helped the team to the FA Cup Final and a place in Europe.

However, he missed the entire next season after breaking his ankle training with England. And after top scoring with 11 goals in 2007-08, last season was another frustrating one as he managed only five appearances before being ruled out for the rest of the campaign - never playing a match under current boss Zola.

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