Profession: Ex-Footballer, Philanthropist
Ashley’s daughter Azaylia died of Leukaemia aged eight months in April 2021. Ashley is dedicating his participation on the Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins course to her, wanting to make her a proud daughter and to show some of the strength she did, in her fight against cancer.
Why did you want to put yourself through the challenge of SAS Who Dares Wins?
Well, it was very close to the passing of my daughter. Losing my daughter was the most difficult experience of my life. I think to combat trauma you need to step outside your comfort zone and see who you really are. There’s no better way to do that than on SAS Who Dares Wins, so when the opportunity came, I took it with both hands. I really wanted to find out who I was, so I wanted to see whether I could put my money where my mouth is. I said I was going to be strong for my daughter, and I was going to continue to fight for my daughter, I wanted to put that in action as soon as I possibly could.
Did you of know what you were letting yourself in for?
Yeah. I knew exactly what the show was and that was why it was the only show at the time that I would've done because I knew that it wasn't going to be easy. I knew that it was going to be very tough. But it was so important for me at the time to test myself, to find out who I was, to find out what I was capable of and to learn some valuable lessons in there to take into the world. I took the experience very seriously because I went on there for genuine reasons, to learn from some very incredible people, the staff, in order for me to be able to take these lessons into life.
Did you know anyone who’d done the show before that you could ask for advice before you flew out to Jordan?
I know people who had done it before, but I didn't want to cheat. It's difficult because I don't really surround myself with a lot of people anymore because they're not really on my frequency. But if you know me, you understand how seriously I take everything in life now because I know how easy it can slip away and I know that we can't take life for granted. So when I was going to do this experience, I wanted to go in raw. I wanted to go into the unknown and I wanted to find who I am. I wanted to see if I could make it out the other end. So it was important for me not to be trying to get little sneaky insights and find out how I could make it easier because I wanted it to be hard.
Did you prepare physically for the course?
Yeah, I was going out running and I was doing all of that stuff because that's what I used to do as a coping mechanism anyway.
Was there anything you were worried about before starting the course?
No, I wasn't afraid of being shouted at, I wasn't afraid of doing anything apart from heights. I suffer from very bad vertigo, so it's not like I'm scared of being high, but it's when I'm high, I lose all functionality. I'm all over the place.
How did you feel about the other celebs on the course with you?
It was a great cast. An absolutely amazing cast. I couldn't have hoped to have been around better people who took the experience seriously. For most people on the show that I've spoken to, they said that my experience helped them because I was so raw and I was telling them the story about my daughter, which most of them had followed. They all said that my story and my journey helped them on their experience. Everybody related and connected to my story. It was a great bunch of people from being able to have a good time, to being able to really get stuck in.
How were you feeling about the DS before you started the course?
I kind of knew a little bit about what to expect from Foxy and Billy, even though I didn't know first hand. I knew that Billy was going to be tough. I knew that it wasn't going to be an easy experience with them. But at the same time I knew that they're there to make us better people. I think sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. And sometimes there's no better thing than tough love.
How did you find being in their arena?
I found it completely different while I was in there to afterwards. A lot of them are my friends now. I see Billy quite a lot. I talked to Rudy and I talked to Remi. I talked to Foxy. A lot of them have got involved and helped me on the challenges that I'm doing. They're really good people. I think when you're in there, they're very clinical. You can tell that they're serious people. But I also had to respect the fact that some of the stories that they told us and some of the things that they've had to go through and that helps understand who they've had to become because of it. So I just went in there a bit in awe and had nothing but respect for them as men.
How tough did you find the course?
It was important for me to overcome everything and overcome all my fears. So obviously, every day you're nervous, you're anxious. You're stressed because you don't get a rest. Every time you think you've got a chance to rest, you're getting called back out again. And that's one thing I don't think people watching the series understand. People think it's like every other TV show where you film for a bit, then you get your downtime. There is no downtime.
How would you sum up the experience?
It was a great experience and you know what? I didn't want anybody to have sympathy for me because of what happened to my daughter, because that's our life. No matter what happens to you in life, no one gives a fuck. No one gives a fuck about your excuses. No one gives a fuck about your problems. And that's what it was good for because I went in there and I didn't get any special treatment, I didn't get any sympathy. I had to deal with my problems and I had to push through the pain and do what I had to do. And I think it was good for me. It was a very humbling experience. But it was also a very tough and challenging experience.