Eric AshtonMBE (24 January 1935 – 20 March 2008) was an English professional Rugby League World Cup-winning footballer of the 1950s and '60s and later a coach. He played his whole first grade football career for Wigan along with at times both captaining and coaching them; his position of choice was right centre. Over the span of his career he came to be known as one of the best centres in the modern game and formed a devastating partnership with Billy Boston somewhat because of this combination he went on to represent the Great Britain national side making his debut in 1957. After his retirement from league in 1969, Ashton went on to coach Wigan as well as Leeds, St. Helens and Great Britain; he also had a brief stint as chairman of St Helens in 1996. He was a member of the St Helens board for fifteen years.
Born and brought up in St Helens, Lancashire, Ashton began playing rugby league at an early age and it wasn't long before his talent became noticeable; he was signed to the St. Helens schoolboys side before joining the army not long after.
In 1954, Ashton was spotted playing rugby league during his national service in the Army and was subsequently invited for a trial with rival club Wigan. He attended the trial and was seen by the directors of the club as being a player with exceptional talent, after Wigan offered him a spot in their top level side Ashton offered his home town club St Helens the chance to sign him but they passed and he then signed for Wigan in 1955 for £150. He made his first representative later that year, appearing for Lancashire against New Zealand. Ashton represented Rest of the World in the 11-20 defeat to Australia at Sydney Cricket Ground on 29 June 1957, and represented Great Britain & France in the 37-31 victory over New Zealand at Carlaw Park, Auckland on 3 July 1957. After signing for Wigan he quickly linked up with Welsh right winger Billy Boston and formed one of the most devastating right-wing-threequarter partnerships of modern times. Ashton played Centre, i.e. number 3 in Wigan's 9–13 victory over Workington Town in the 1957–58Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 10 May 1958, Such was the impact of both Ashton and Boston it led to Ashton being promoted as captain of the Wigan side after just two years at the club at the age of 22. It was a position he would go onto hold for the next twelve years. Ashton made his international debut at the age of 22 for the Great Britain side against France in 1957. He would go on to collect a total of 26 caps for the Great Britain side with his first Southern Hemisphere tour coming in 1957 as the British side competed in the World Cup. Ashton was a true professional in every sense, being sent off just twice in his whole career and due to his professionalism, talent and intelligence he would go on to achieve a long and distinguished footballing career. Ashton's honours and achievements are nothing short of impressive, with 3 victorious WembleyChallenge Cup finals (out of a possible six), a Championship in 1960, a Lancashire Challenge Cup and two Lancashire League Championships as well as a BBC Floodlit trophy. He played in Wigan'se 30–13 victory over Hull in the 1958–59Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium on Saturday 9 May 1959,
In 1963 he was appointed player-coach of the Wigan club, a position that he held for a further six years before hanging up his boots as a player in 1969. He would continue on his managerial role at the club for another four years.
Following the 1973 season Ashton resigned his post as Wigan coach and moved to Leeds for a short spell before moving on to coach St Helens from May 1974 to May 1980, including two Challenge Cup finals in 1976 and 1978. In 1996 he was appointed Chairman of his old club and was at the helm when they won the double that year.