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THE Welsh Premier's first-ever young player of the season in 2008, Ashley Stott is still banging-in the goals, although he's dropped down to a lower level in the English pyramid.

And the chart-topping goalscorer says happiness is the key to his career revival at Daisy Hill in the Hallmark Security League First Division. The 28-year-old striker had scored 32 goals in 29 appearances ahead of Saturday's trip to Cheadle Town to lead the league's goalscoring list and his prolific form in front of goal since his move from Rhyl in the summer has also kept the threat of relegation at bay for the Westhoughton, Bolton-based outfit.

For a team lying 17th in the table to have the league's top scorer is unusual, but it becomes less of a surprise in this case when his footballing pedigree is taken into account. The Withington-born hit man has played in the Europa League with Bangor City and can count Altrincham, Halifax Town, Aberystwyth Town, Northwich Victoria, Ramsbottom United, Trafford, Curzon Ashton and Witton Albion among his former clubs. And with him being at the peak of his playing career age-wise it is quite a coup for a modest-sized club like Daisy Hill to acquire his services. But he says it is all down to him enjoying his football.

"I need to feel loved and I get that from everyone here," he told the Bolton News. "In terms of enjoyment this has been one of my best seasons and the manager [Craig Thomas] has been great."

"After Rhyl I wasn't interested in playing football and didn't want to play anymore."

The fact he is happy playing is a contrast to the recent past when he almost gave up on the game. He said: "After Rhyl I wasn't interested in playing football and didn't want to play anymore. I'd fallen out of love with football, had my son and I wasn't enjoying the game."

Rhyl's loss was Daisy's gain because when the club heard about Stott's availability, Thomas took it upon himself to convince the player to play for them.
"I said no to begin with but he [Thomas] persisted and talked me round," said Stott, a freelance Primary School PE teacher who started his football career in Preston North End's academy.

"If I was going to play again I wanted it to be somewhere I felt appreciated, and I am here. The manager has had phone calls but I've turned them down. I'm happy at the moment. It's a good club and they look after me."

Ashley Stott
Ashley Stott.

In December he won the league's player-of-the-month award after scoring eight goals in the four matches played during the month, three of which ended in defeat for the side. He also has seven man-of-the-match awards to his name.

Stott was spotted by then Bangor manager Clayton Blackmore and signed for City in July 2006, heading the goal charts at Farrar Road in 2007/8 before leaving to join Halifax Town. He was leading scorer for the Shaymen in 2008/9 with 24 goals, but left mid-way through a two-year contract to rejoin the Citizens.

After one season at Farrar Road he left again in August 2010 to join Hyde but, after a brief spell at Witton Albion in 2010 he was back in the Welsh Premier League with Aberystwyth in January 2011.

After a season at Park Avenue and spells with Witton Albion and Northwich Victoria, he top-scored with Vauxhall in 2012/13, joining Rhyl in June 2014 and completing a total of 44 goals from 94 (+34) WPL appearances.