Taken from the feature interview inside the MK Dons match day programme, we spoke to Ashley Nathaniel-George as he beds into life as a full-time professional.
Morecambe. Yeovil. Newport. All three have fallen victim to Ashley Nathaniel-George’s piercing runs and powerful shots. The 23 year-old midfielder’s three goals for the Reds this season are testament to the hard work of the coaching team around him that are slowly nurturing him into a rounded Football League player.
It is easy to forget, of course, that Nathaniel-George is only three months into his professional career. Signed from Evo-Stik South side Hendon in the summer by Harry Kewell, and having been scouted from the Jamie Vardy Academy, the road to goals for ANG hasn’t been a smooth ride for Town’s number 15.
Handed his debut in the 2-1 Carabao Cup defeat to Bristol Rovers, ANG was then not named in the squad for the next game, at home to Stevenage in the league. “I thought I played really well at Bristol, and I knew there was really positive feedback from the fans, so to then not feature in the next game was frustrating.”
That was early days for the youngster, who has thrived under Gabriele Cioffi, with all three of his goals having come since the Italian’s arrival in September. Cioffi’s debut game also marked Nathaniel-George’s league debut goal, as he picked up the ball in the middle of the park and ran with it, before coolly slotting past the goalkeeper with a powerful effort. “It was a great feeling to score that first goal on my home debut. It meant a lot because it was also the gaffer’s first game, so there was a double the celebration really. You get a clean slate with a new gaffer, so you don’t have to worry about what the old manager liked or didn’t like about you – you’re able to start afresh and show the new manager what you’re really about.”
It was quickly clear that Ashley would be a player to watch this season, as he scored in consecutive home games, with a goal arguably better than the previous one. He again ran from the half way line and took it inside and unleashing an unstoppable drive into the bottom corner. The goal was pivotal as the Reds ran out 3-1 winners over Yeovil.
After a slight injury set back in mid October, ANG returned to the squad for Town’s clash with third placed Newport, where he again was to have a huge impact on proceedings. With the Reds leading 2-1 against the Welsh side, Cioffi made an inspired substitution. On came Nathaniel-George, who took less than ten minutes to score in his third consecutive home game. In what was seeming to be a staple of any Crawley game, it was another of his trademark strikes from outside the area that was the final goal in their 4-1 rout, arguably their best home performance for some years. “For me, that goal was most important, because it put the game out of sight at a time when Newport could quite easily have grabbed one and made life difficult for us. It was an all round great team performance though.”
It is the passion of the his Head Coach Cioffi that Nathaniel-George believes will take the club forward as we look to cement our place in the top half of the table. Speaking after his first goal for the club, ANG said that their charismatic coach lifts the mood around the camp. “His passion is fantastic, as we saw after the Morecambe game when he ran on the pitch, and we all celebrated together with the fans at the end. We all take that back into the dressing room and there is always a great atmosphere after a positive result.”
“We have developed a strong mentality at home,” he added ahead of today’s showdown with second-placed MK Dons. “The fans play their part too. The atmosphere here for the last two games has been really good and you can see that our fans are buying into what we are trying to achieve.
“I think apart from Tranmere last week, we have been competitive in every game this season. We’ve played well against some top sides so we don’t fear anyone, especially at home. We know there is room for improvement collectively and individually. Personally, I know there is a lot more to come from me as I get used to the League and full-time football but I know I can achieve a lot for the club.”