By Brian Bennett
It’s two months since Ashington clinched promotion to the Northern Premier League – and although manager Ian Skinner announced at the Presentation Evening that he would like every member of the squad to remain with him ‘on the journey’ – due to a variety of reasons it was inevitable that a number would move on.
Now the Woodhorn Lane boss – whilst welcoming the new arrivals at the club has publicly chosen to say a fond farewell to the lads who have left: “I think it is only fair that we pay tribute to the roles which they played both last season and beyond,” he said, confirming that eight had departed Woodhorn Lane.
The boss then spoke individually about the eight:
Ben Harmison: Ben was our top goal scorer as well as captain and he played a massive part at both ends of the pitch for us. Unfortunately due to his work, his other sports as well as family commitments, the travel was probably going to prove too challenging for him. To his credit Ben was disappointed that he found himself having to step away and he has made the offer that he will dual register and if we are ever short and he is available he would be more than happy to come and help the club out – so that’s always a positive.
Robbie Dale: Robbie was a revelation at centre back last year. He ended up playing there at the start of pre season and also at the start of the season proper when we had a number of injuries. He said he would do a job for us in the short term and he did so well that he ended up playing most of his games there. He gave us that calmness and experience at the back; his reading of the game was brilliant and his understanding was different class and he’ll be a big miss around the place.
Andrew Cartwright: ‘Carty’ was huge for us at right back last year. He was a good leader in the dressing room and was great on the pitch both in and out of possession and was very much a bit of a modern day sort of full back. He offered us lots going forward in attack but was also good at defending in one versus one situations. He had won promotion with North Shields the previous season and I knew when I signed him that if we achieved our goal (promotion), he wouldn’t be able to continue on the journey with us.
Dean Briggs: Dean became a focal point for us and got his love back for the game – and had that real hot streak where he scored all sorts of goals. His career path took him to Dubai but when he came back, he never really found that spark again and sometimes a fresh start is what a player needs. I think he’d be the first to admit that towards the back end of last season he became a little bit stale and wasn’t the player that we knew of old so a move may just reignite him to get him back to the levels which he is capable of.
Paul Robinson: ‘Robbo’ was another player we knew that come the end of the season he would move on. Paul has got a large contingent of very close friends who play for Newcastle Blue Star so we were always of the opinion that he would have a season with them. I think supporters saw at the back end of the campaign how brilliant he was for us. There was always a joke between Paul and myself that if Ashington could get a 3G pitch or if he could just have the winter off then we could prolong his career even further. He’s another player who goes with our blessings.
Luke Salmon: Luke probably didn’t play as much as he would have liked last season but again we need to remember the contribution he has made to the club over a long period of time. This was his second spell with us and ‘what you see is what you get’ with him. Luke gives nothing short of 100 per cent and scored a couple of important goals for us in games last season. We wanted to keep him but we understand his reasons for finding a move with regular football.”
Adam Johnson: Adam had to use lots of his holidays from work to get time off to play football and it was a challenge for him to play in the Northern League. Obviously our step up to the NPL and the amount of travelling involved would have ruled him out of too many games. It’s disappointing for us but Adam has got himself a great move back to Blyth Town which is his home town club. I wish him all the best – and I’m sure he’ll score lots of goals for them.
Ryan McKinnon: When Darren Lough broke his nose at Bishop Auckland, Ryan got into the side. He played in the inter step play off game at Glossop and was excellent – and never let the club down when he did play. He probably wanted more game time but when he looked at the Lough/Dale partnership, it was too good of a one to break up and Ryan didn’t quite force his way in. He was another player who gave everything for the cause and was a good lad to have around the place and we wish him all the best at Consett. Skinner continued: “It’s with a touch of sadness that we lose those eight players – and possibly one or two more for similar reasons which I have alluded too – but one thing I would say is that every one of them played their part in getting Ashington Football Club to where it wanted to be. They leave with a heavy heart after being part of what was a fantastic group last year – and will go down in history after getting this club out of the Northern League. I wish them all the best in where their footballing journey takes them – but one thing which is for sure is that they will always be welcome at Woodhorn Lane.”