By Brian Bennett

The players returned to pre season training at Ashington FC last week – and skipper Ben Harmison says that the lead up to the start of the new campaign is vital.

Manager Ian Skinner has been busy during the summer bringing in Robbie Dale, Andrew Cartwright, Lee Mason, Darren Lough, Damen Mullen and Dan Maguire.

And Harmison reckons the next few weeks are key: “We had two good sessions last week,” he said, “There were lots of ball work and a good chance for the newcomers to meet the others from last season. There were a couple of the new lads missing due to being away on holiday but of the ones who were there, there attitudes and work rate were spot on. Like last year, there’s definitely a buzz and a good-feel factor around the club but the most important thing for us as players is to get a good pre season under our belts because we want to hit the ground running when the league starts. We’ve got some good, exciting friendlies coming up and we’ve got a big squad at the minute but it’s just good to have that experience. I look around the group now and there’s so much talent in the camp with some players having played in higher leagues and we can’t wait for the season to start.”

Ashington, the winners of the inaugural Ebac Northern League Division One Cup, will meet North Shields, the first division champions at the Daren Persson Stadium on Saturday July 23 to contest the Cleator Cup. The league programme begins a week later on July 30 with the new fixtures being released by the ENL on Friday.