By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie
For Ashington FC chairman Brian Shotton, the reality has hit home that the Woodhorn Lane outfit have achieved promotion to the Northern Premier League.
However, it’s the remarkable change of fortunes and turnaround at the club which has left him in a state of disbelief. Speaking to a packed clubhouse at the presentation evening, Brian said: “When I took over as chairman in 2018, the club were in dire straits. The first person I got in contact with was Ian Skinner and he – like myself – has seen things flourish from where we were then to where we are now. Certainly if anyone had mentioned to me that in four years we would be promoted to the NPL, I would have laughed at them. However I think that the achievement represents the hard work not just from us but also the backing we have received from the supporters, which has been top class.”
Ian Skinner remembers that phone call from the chairman and said: “I’m an Ashington lad who was asked to come and help his home town club – and what has developed in four years is quite astonishing. Earlier in the season, to have a crowd of over 1400 against Stocksbridge Park Steels in the Emirates FA Cup replay at Woodhorn Lane is what dreams are made of and on that night, my mind immediately switched back to the moment when Brian (Shotton) asked me to come back to the club.”
It’s approaching a fortnight since there were euphoric scenes following the Colliers’ 3-0 Inter Step play off win over Glossop North End in Derbyshire but promotion remains a blur for the manager: “I still don’t think promotion has sunk in if truth be know,” said Skinner, “This season I told the players that they were the best and challenged them and from the bottom of my heart, what they have done for the club and what they have achieved is unbelievable. They had been different class and I can’t thank them enough. As for the town, who came along and supported us, their backing has been phenomenal – and if someone had told me we would average gates of over 500 at home this past season I wouldn’t have believed them.”
Brian Shotton admits that stepping up a level into the East Division of the NPL will bring new challenges – but he is confident the club will succeed: “It’s not going to be easy,” he said, “We’ve got a lot of work to be done including ground work, despite the fact that people looking around our facilities think they are the best. We have found ways to do things over the last four years which has brought us to this point so we will continue to work towards our target. If you work hard enough you will always get your results and that is what has happened this season across the board from the team to the backroom staff, the committee members, the volunteers, supporters and bar staff – and we will continue to drive forward.”