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CCF Rebooted 19: Ashley Grimes
Monday, 3rd Jan 2022 12:02 by AtThePeake

One of the more divisive players of a rather strange era for Rochdale AFC was the lazy yet occasionally deadly striker Ashley Grimes.

Position: Striker

Arrived from: Millwall

Played : 2011-2013

Appearances : 74

Goals : 18

Left for: Bury

Another of Steve Eyre's former Manchester City proteges, Grimes arrived at Dale in that summer of 2011 hoping to be the goalscoring forward that Dale had lacked in their previous League One campaign the year before.

The Swinton-born forward spent time as a youngster with both Manchester United and Bolton Wanderers before spending five years at Manchester City between 2003 and 2008 without ever making a first-team appearance for the Citizens.

When he left the Etihad Stadium in 2008 following the expiration of his contract, the only league experience that Grimes had to his name was a four-game, goalless loan spell with Swindon Town, but his record in the youth team and reserves at Manchester City prompted League One Millwall to take a chance on him that summer.

Still just 21 when he joined the Lions, he was seen as one for the future at the Den, but impressed in sporadic appearances in the FA Cup, scoring in wins over Chester and Aldershot and ended up featuring fairly regularly in the first team during that first season in London.

However, a combination of injuries and squad depth saw Grimes' chances limited in the following two seasons and he spent the majority of his third and final campaign with Millwall out on loan with Lincoln City, enjoying the most prolific spell of his career.

During his time at Sincil Bank, Grimes alerted many lower league clubs to his ability, racking up 15 goals in just 27 appearances and winning the club's Player of the Season award despite not being able to save them from relegation into non-league.

With Grimes released by Millwall, Eyre quickly sought his signature and reunited with his former youth player, allowing the striker to return to his native north-west in the process.

Grimes started his Dale career in fine fashion, racking up four goals in his first three games for the club including two in an EFL Cup win over Chesterfield. This was followed up in September with goals against Bury and Charlton and another brace against Wycombe on October 1st. You can see a clip of his header against Bury below.

However, as Dale's form began to spiral, so did Grimes and he wouldn't manage to find the net again until Steve Eyre's permanent replacement, John Coleman, took charge of his first game. Grimes netted twice in that fixture, a 3-0 derby day win over Bury once again.

Coleman was unable to rescue the side from relegation however and Grimes managed just one more strike that season as Dale finished bottom of the pile.

Grimes again seemed to be Dale's best attacking threat in the early stages of the following campaign back in League Two and by the time he found the net in a 1-2 defeat to Rotherham on New Year's Day, he had nine goals to his name in 21 appearances.

However, once Keith Hill arrived to replace Coleman in the latter stages of the season, Grimes was clearly less fancied. He scored just once more for the club during Hill's tenure before being released at the end of the season, to make way perhaps for the signing of Scott Hogan who would score the goals to fire Dale back into League One the following season.

Personally, I was a big fan of Grimes. I saw an intelligence to his movement that at times deserved more from the players around him. His main attribute was his goalscoring instinct, but in an underperforming side he was rarely supplied with enough ammunition to really fire in enough goals to endear himself to the support.

And it would be remiss not to mention the reasons why he never did endear himself to the Spotland faithful. It was clear from the stands even that his attitude was far from perfect, he wasn't one to press wilfully and was often dismissed as lazy, while his constant moaning at referees and team-mates was at times difficult to watch.

But personally, I really did think Grimes was capable of plenty more than we got to see of him in a Dale shirt. He had a fine first touch and was capable of drifting into pockets of space away from the defensive line. Unfortunately, we perhaps lacked the players to make the most of this during his time at Spotland and there can be no doubt that he did little to help himself when things started to go against him and the team, as they often did during those two seasons.

When he left Rochdale, Grimes was quickly snapped up by neighbours Bury, with some over zealous Shakers supporters mocking up a parody of Manchester City's infamous Carlos Tevez billboard, with an image of their new striker, arms outstretched, above the caption 'Welcome to Bury.'

In 15 league appearances for the Shakers, he failed to find the net. Bury ended the campaign in mid-table and allowed Grimes to cancel his contract 12 months early. Dale, on the other hand, were promoted. Welcome to Bury indeed.

After leaving Gigg Lane, Grimes would spend each of his final four seasons in football with a different club, taking in spells at Walsall, Barrow, Southport and Edinburgh City. He managed just four goals across 64 appearances with the three English clubs, before ending his career with five in 29 at Meadowbank in the Scottish fourth tier.

Photo: Action Images



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