Ashley Westwood was such a huge part of Crewe Alexandra’s promotion through the League Two play-offs back in 2012 that it convinced Aston Villa to swoop for his services the following summer.
It was a transfer which changed Westwood’s life. He was earning just £50,000 a year at Crewe but signed for Villa before even looking at how much his wage would increase.
He described his transfer on deadline day of 2012 to the Daily Mail: “I was standing in my dad's kitchen on deadline day when the call came in from Villa. I guess it must have been around 12.30pm and we shot straight down there.
“It was just as well he did [his agent discussed his new wage] because I would have come here [to Villa] for nothing. In fact I didn't even know how much I was getting until after I'd signed the contract and started reading it. I just wanted to play Premier League football.”
It is a refreshing outlook on being a Premier League footballer from Westwood. Far too often you see a player trying to force a transfer away from a club for the sake of a salary increase.
The 25-year-old will appear in the FA Cup final for Villa at the weekend against Arsenal at Wembley. It is a week he will cherish after working hard to make it to the top through Crewe’s academy and several loan spells in the non-league.
He continued, “At one stage, when I was 18, I was sent out on loan to Nantwich. It was tough and physical at that non-League level. I played against teams like Boston United, Bradford Park Avenue, Guiseley. The most basic grounds; two showers in the dressing room.
“It was the making of me to be honest. I thought, I've got to make sure I kick on from here. I went back to Crewe and worked hard to break into the first team.”
This upbringing means Westwood values Premier League football over all the other positives that come with playing at the elite level of the game and when he steps onto the Wembley turf at the weekend, he will be realising his dream.