By Brian Bennett | Photo: Rachel McDonald (17th Sept 2022)

Ashington FC chairman Brian Shotton took it all in, soaking up the emotional and ecstatic scenes which followed after the final whistle on Saturday as the Colliers clinched promotion to the Northern Premier League East Division.

The Colliers had comprehensively swept NPL West Division outfit Glossop North End aside on their home patch winning the Inter Step play off game 3-0 with goals coming from skipper Ben Harmison (2) and Craig Spooner.

Under his astute leadership and guidance, Brian – who took over the reins as chairman four years ago – has totally transformed the club which has moved in an upwards direction ever since.

On the pitch, Ian Skinner, who came in as manager and who does the job on a voluntary basis, has also worked wonders.

There are others too who have diligently worked their socks off behind the scenes and Skinner made reference to individuals and volunteers who give up numerous hours like Gav Perry, Brian Robson and Alan Brown.

Turning the clock back a few years, Ashington were desperately looking for points to survive in the first division of the Ebac Northern League.

At around 4.50pm in Derbyshire on Saturday their elevation into the NPL was not only confirmed but thoroughly deserved – and it was the culmination of sheer hard work.

For messrs Shotton, Skinner, Perry, Robson and Brown – as well as the wonderful supporters – when the final whistle came on Saturday, there were understandably tears of joy along with fist bumps and high-fives.

But there were also tears shed as collectively they tried to put into context just how their club had risen to scale new heights and in doing so, bridge a 55 years gap since the club were last in the NPL.

“Promotion has sunk in,” said Brian afterwards, “but its one of those where everything goes through your head today. You look at what has happened this season – like the FA Cup run we had and various junctures where we thought promotion had gone, come back then gone again. Today the players have just been magnificent and what a way to end the season for everyone – its unreal.”

He continued: “At times I’m lost for words and I always admit that I’m an emotional person. I’m not upset – but I was in tears today because this club has just come on such a journey in such a quick time frame – and I can’t quite believe it if I’m honest. I keep saying to everyone that the hard work starts now because we have got to be better – including myself – and we will be.”