By Brian Bennett

Andy Coyles and Richie Hill will not be enjoying a customary bit of time off – despite the fact that Ashington FC’s 2023/24 campaign has come to an end.

The duo were installed as the new management team at Woodhorn Lane last Friday replacing Ian Skinner who recently announced that he was stepping down from the role at the end of the season after a superb five year stint.

Skinner signed off last week after the Colliers had gone out of the Newcastle Flooring Northumberland Senior Cup at the semi final stage narrowly losing 2-1 against Newcastle United U21s with the club unveiling the partnership of Coyles and Hill – who will operate as joint head coaches – the following day.

“When Ian Skinner told us he was stepping down, we said straight away that we were very interested in the job,” said Coyles, “Richie and myself have forged a really positive working relationship with the current crop of players and the feel –good factor in and around the changing room was something that we certainly warmed to. When the announcement was made, we were blown away by the level of support for us from the players who all reached out and said ‘we really want you to take the job on and we want to work for you.’ That was certainly a contributing factor in us wanting to stay – coupled to the fact that we appreciate the club’s history and loyal support base – and if we can get the recruitment right, we can continue to move this team forward and be successful in the seasons which lie ahead.”

He continued: “Our work has already begun. When we were given the green light about taking over the role, we spent hours upon hours discussing about the current squad of players and also potential targets who we feel could be an asset and who could strengthen us and bring that experience to the group. We’ve identified areas where we feel we need to strengthen and having reflected and evaluated on the campaign just ended, we are confident that we can be a force to be reckoned with next season.”

Coyles turned the clock back 12 months to the close season after Ashington had clinched promotion to the Pitching In Northern Premier League following an unforgettable day in Derbyshire when they outplayed Glossop North End in the Inter-Step play off final and won 3-0: “Obviously it was a fantastic achievement to go up,” added Coyles, “but in the weeks which followed, we lost a lot of players mainly due to the extra travelling involved. We then went through a transition of about eight or nine games where we had six or seven key players out through injury but despite all of that we came out the other side quite healthy and secured league status quite comfortably. Also factor in that we spent three quarters of the season without a left back after Jordan Summerly and Charlie Exley sustained long term injuries whilst we’ve had Craig Spooner – a natural number ten – playing at right back for the majority of the season! However, win, lose or draw within that changing room is a tight knit group and it’s important that we stick together moving forwards next season when the aim will be to improve – otherwise if we don’t do that then we will have underachieved.”

Coyles and Hill – who are based in Richmond and Darlington respectively – will also continue to clock up the miles on the A1 motorway: “Every time we drive to Ashington it is an 122 miles round trip,” said Coyles, “That shows the level of commitment which Richie and myself are prepared to give for Ashington FC but we’re looking forward to both the challenge and to exciting times.”