Kevin Ashcroft played around 600 games in a distinguished career. He played in three Challenge Cup Finals; victorious in 1971 and 1974. He was also a member of the Great Britain World Cup squads in 1968 and 1970 and toured Australasia in 1974 as a Warrington player.
He went on to coach Leigh, Warrington and Salford.
Taking over at Blackpool in February 2005, Ashcroft provided the memorable quote in response to those surprised he was returning to the coaching ranks: “If people want to call me a dinosaur that’s up to them. But remember dinosaurs ruled the world for two million years. And dinosaurs like me used to beat the Aussies and when’s the last time we did that in a test series? 1970. I rest my case.“
Are you happy with the club’s progress in your time there?
Yes very much so. It took a month or so to get everything sorted out staff wise. A lot of hard decisions were made but they had to be made.
Has the club struggled at all after over ten years without professional rugby league in the town?
Yeah without a doubt. You’ve got to establish yourself and resurrect all the supporters and the sponsors. But the fixtures don’t help. It’s unfair on sponsors. It’s very difficult finding sponsors in this league and we treat them with contempt.
Do you have good links with the town’s amateur clubs?
Yes we do but unfortunately it’s not a stronghold of rugby league so we look elsewhere. However if there’s any Blackpool lads out there who have any guts and a bit about them then they know where we are but they don’t get the class of rugby at the moment to help them step up.
What development work is the club doing?
Well we’re trying our best but it costs money and the Rugby League don’t like giving away money do they? The money wasted at the top is unbelievable. Over the last decade there’s probably been £20 million wasted on has been Australians.
What changes would you make at that level?
Doing away with transfer fees was a big mistake. They kept the money in the game. If you have a player that you’ve brought through as a kid then money has been invested in him. If he doesn’t want to turn pro with you then you lose him for nothing. If a Super League club comes in for one of my players they should compensate us for £25, 000. Players can also hold you to ransom now and it’s wrong.
Who have been Blackpool’s best players this season?
Glen Godbee has been outstanding. He’s a Super League player. With better players around him he’d be frightening. But Glen messed up but it was partly my fault too. He asked me if he could make his own way to Hunslet because he had a friend over. He’d never let me down before so I agreed but then he didn’t turn up. I said to him that he’d let himself down as well as the club, the supporters and the players. He won’t play for me again. If I let him get away with that then I might as well go cutting grass for a living. I wouldn’t have done that as a player but on the other hand my coach wouldn’t have let me drive to a game on my own so maybe I need a kick up the backside as well!
Do you think players can be less disciplined these days?
No I don’t think that. The discipline is good and they’re very fit lads. Maybe what is missing is the comradeship. You never see anybody after a game. When we used to go up to Workington we’d not get home till two in the morning. We’d be in the bar with the Martin brothers and Smiler Allen but they don’t do it any more.
Which other players have done well this season?
Tommy Grundy who we signed from Leigh just wants to get out and play. Also, Willie Swann gives 100% every week and Jon Chamberlain plays powerfully. All the lads do their best and that’s all you can ask for. It’s up to us to educate them and make a mediocre player into a good one and a good one into a Super League player.
Who do you tip to be promoted to National League One this season?
We should have beaten Hunslet when we played them and Workington gave us a bloody hard game. They’re a big set but I don’t think they’ll go up. They don’t have enough pace. York are a tidy outfit. They’re very well drilled and they do the basics right so I’d say them.
You must still have a lot of fond memories of your playing career. What still stands out?
Well I went to Leigh for a record fee of £8000. I got picked for the World Cup in 1968 which was a great honour. Then in 1971 at Wembley with Leigh. It was a waste of time us going they said but we went down there and did the job. I played in the World Cup in 1972 then toured in 1974, having to room with John Mills for three and a half months!
What about your coaching career?
I loved coaching at Leigh, Warrington and then did seven years at Salford with John Wilkinson. He should run the RFL and teach them how to do it. He doesn’t waste money; he knows what he’s doing. He doesn’t owe money and he taught me all about the finances of the game. Salford are moving in the right direction at the moment There’s only really Leeds and Salford in the Super League who are viable financially.
Can Great Britain win the Tri-Nations tournament at the end of the year?
There’s more chance of platting sawdust. At the end of the day we just don’t have the players in the key positions. Look at the State of Origin in Australia – it’s frightening.