Ashley Timms aiming to resurrect his career with Ilkeston
ILKESTON FC's decision to offer a one-year deal to a goalkeeper who has twice served a prison sentence has certainly caused a stir –and not everyone is happy to see Ashley Timms taken on at the New Manor Ground.
But manager Kevin Wilson is adamant that he deserves the chance to prove that he is getting his life back in order and is only concerned with the present and the future.
Timms, 26, has to live with the fact that he threw away a golden opportunity to build a career in top-level football when he was found guilty of blackmail and money-laundering offences.
But after serving a prison term in each case, he is desperate to salvage a career which promised so much when he emerged from the ranks at Manchester City to earn a professional contract as a 17-year-old.
"I felt very bitter for a while because not everything about the court cases was as it seemed," he said. "But there's nothing to be gained from 'going there' ... it was a period of my life that I regret very much and I just want to put it behind me.
"Both of my parents are senior police officers and I had a very stable upbringing. I'd never previously been in any trouble. But sometimes you do silly things as a young person and I did."
Although he has had offers from a number of clubs at a higher level, he was instantly impressed when he took a call from Wilson and believes Ilkeston offer him the perfect opportunity to re-launch his career.
He said: "Kevin invited me to come down to take part in a couple of training sessions and play half a game to prove what I could do and I instantly took to the club.
"They are certainly the most professionally-run outfit that I've come across in non-league football and, with the winning mentality they have and their great spirit in the dressing room. I think they will be serious contenders for promotion.
"I have a lot of faith in Kevin and I'm sure he can be key to me getting my career back on the rails. I'm grateful to him for having faith in me and I really want to repay him."
Although Timms currently lives with his girl-friend in South Yorkshire, they are planning to move to Nottingham. So it really will be a fresh start for the man who so nearly made the big-time with Man City, Bolton and Norwich.
He was at City with the likes of Micah Richards and Stephen Ireland and he was the first of their group to sign a professional contract.
Bolton wanted to sign him after he impressed during a month on work experience and he also had spells with Fulham and Shrewsbury (as understudy to Joe Hart) before being offered a two-year contract by Norwich.
He explained: "Glenn Roeder wanted to sign me but Norwich already had five goalkeepers so I signed a pre-contract to join them in the summer, then played for Cambridge City in the meantime."
The deal eventually didn't go through, however because he was arrested at that stage. It's going to be a tough challenge for him rise back up through the pyramid.
"I've chosen to do it a different way with Ilkeston FC," he said. "I could have signed for a club at a higher level and sat on the bench, but I need to play regularly and show what I can do.
"To some extent, I've suffered from the 'goalkeeper's curse'. If I had been an outfield player, I might well have played 200 games by now ... and maybe my life would have been very different."