MANAGEMENT TEAM APPRECIATION TO BEHIND THE SCENES STAFF

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC’s newly installed boss Andy Coyles, beavering away as he looks to shape his squad for the forthcoming season, has spoken on behalf of the management team about the ‘key’ signings he has already secured – off the field.

Coyles and Richie Hill were installed as head coaches a few weeks ago taking over the reins from Ian Skinner and the duo moved swiftly to secure the services of Gaz Ormston – who joined the Woodhorn Lane club midway through last season as a player – as a third member of their staff.

Now Coyles has been quick to talk openly about the vital contributions made by a plethora of personnel.

He said: “I’d like to make people aware that there are more than just the players and management that contribute towards what is a team effort at the club. Richie, Gaz and myself really appreciate and acknowledge the work done behind the scenes by the Board of Directors; football secretary Gav Perry; physio Mark Ramsden; logistics manager Alan Brown and photographer Ian Brodie. In the short time we have been in charge, they have all played a huge part and have been really supportive – and knowing that they are still going to be in place with us next season is excellent news.”

LEAGUE ALLOCATIONS FOR 2024/25

The FA have today released the allocations for all Step 1-6 leagues for the upcoming season.

As we were all aware, the Northern Premier League – East Division would rise from 20 to 22 teams for the 2024/25 season and beyond.

Hebburn Town and Stockton Town were both successful in promotion from our division last season, and we wish them the best of luck as they embark on the next part of their journey in the National League System. At the other end of the table, we also say goodbye to Winterton Rangers who will return to the Northern Counties East (Premier Division) after just a single season in the Northern Premier League. The last club we will say goodbye to are Grantham Town who have been laterally moved to the Northern Premier League – Midlands Division.

Brighouse Town, who finished second bottom have been given a reprieve due to vacancies in the National League System and will remain in the East division.

Coming into the division we have five clubs promoted from Step 5 leagues in Bishop Auckland, Emley, Garforth Town, Heaton Stannington and Sherwood Colliery and along with Bradford (Park Avenue) who were relegated from the Northern Premier League – Premier Division to complete the line up for 2024/25.

A map showing all of the clubs in the division is available below:

GAZ ORMSTON JOINS MANAGEMENT TEAM

Ashington AFC are delighted to announce that for the  2024/25 season Gary Ormston has not only decided he wants to remain at the club in a playing capacity, but he has also accepted an offer from Andy Coyles and Richie Hill to become part of the management team.

Gary originally joined the club in November 2023 from Newcastle Blue Star and made 23 appearances in what was remaining of the season.

Speaking about bringing Gary into the management team Andy Coyles commented “As soon as myself and Richie were told that we would be taking over the reins at Ashington, we thought it would be a no brainer to get Gaz Ormston signed up, not just on a playing front but as part of the management team too. He has a wealth of experience in non-league football and an unbelievable amount of knowledge in the Northeast footballing landscape. He has achieved pretty much everything there is to win on the non league circuit and with that, comes a huge amount of respect, not just from supporters but from his team mates and potential targets for next season”.

He continued “Gaz is hugely and widely respected amongst his peers. He will first and foremost be a player, but off the pitch and in the dressing room he is going to be a fantastic addition to the management team.”

A shocked Ormston said “I have to admit that I was surprised when Andy and Ritchie asked me to help them as part of their management team. I’ll be honest, when Ian made the announcement that he was stepping away from the management role it left me uncertain of my future at Ashington, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, as a change of management can sometimes lead to a different vision for a team. So, when the two new managers approached me I was shocked and felt really honoured they had asked me, with having only been part of the fantastic Ashington set up for a few months.”

He went on “I was asked first and foremost to continue in a playing capacity, to which I was delighted by and immediately accepted. The management side I wasn’t sure of, as I’d already done a bit of that previously under the tutelage of a good friend of mine, Brian Smith. I know just how time consuming it is and anybody who has been involved in football management roles will back me on that one.”

On making his decision to accept the role Gary concluded by saying “After discussing the offer with my family, we decided it would be too good an opportunity to turn down. To help, play alongside, and support to manage a wonderful crop of young men is something that really excites me for the year ahead. Andy, Richie and myself already have a great camaraderie, with work already started on next season behind the scenes, while continuing the spirit and passion of the current team that Ian has passed over to very competent hands. It really is an exciting time ahead.”

Andy and Richie with the support from Gaz will now look to continue to build their squad for the season ahead.

We will also shortly look to release our provisional pre-season schedule.

COYLES: “OUR WORK HAS ALREADY BEGUN”

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.”

IAN REID: “IAN SKINNER HAS GONE OUT ON A HIGH”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ian Reid, chair of the Ashington Supporters Club, reflecting on the last five years has said that Ian Skinner has gone out on a high.

In his own words in an open letter to the club’s social media, Skinner waved ‘goodbye from the touchline’ as manager following Thursday’s 2-1 defeat against Newcastle United U21s in the semi final of the Newcastle Flooring Northumberland Senior Cup but added that ‘it’s not necessarily farewell.’ The club announced that Skinner will ‘maintain a role as a Director’ at the Woodhorn Lane based outfit.

Mr Reid, chair for over ten years said: “I can understand why he (Ian Skinner) has decided to step down from the manager’s role because he has got a lot on his plate. However, I think he has gone out on a high and we all applaud him for that. He won us a couple of pieces of silverware with the Ebac Northern League Division One Cup as well as the Cleator Cup plus the memorable run we had in the FA Cup last year and of course getting the club promoted into the Northern Premier League at the end of the season. That away game when we won the Inter Step play off final against Glossop 3-0 was the highlight – but to be honest for me, it is also the stand out moment over the last 50-60 years. Even supporters who have been going to matches for a long time have said that was a massive highlight because it was another step up the rung.”

He continued: “The only other occasion which would run it close was winning the Northumberland Senior Cup in 2013 when we defeated Whitley Bay at St James Park. On that night it was one of the best footballing performances which I had seen by an Ashington side for a long time.”

He added: “Off the field, Brian Shotton also deserves the maximum amount of credit. When he took over as chairman five years ago, it was at a difficult time but with his drive and enthusiasm, he got other people on board to help him and the club have gone in one direction. The players who were brought in wanted to play for the club and we stayed up that season – and we just seem to have pushed on from there. It’s been like going up a hill – but on a motor cycle and not walking and we’ve advanced very quickly.”

On Friday morning, the club announced that Andy Coyles and Richie Hill – assistant manager and coach respectively in the management team alongside Skinner – had been appointed to take over in the joint role as head coaches.

Mr Reid said: “All the lads I’ve been speaking to are all quite happy because Andy (Coyles) and Richie (Hill) are two good lads plus its continuity within the club. Personally speaking I think it’s an ideal appointment and the thing that stood out for me is that the pair must have the club at heart. They wanted the job; they are both Uefa ‘A’ licence coaches and are prepared to travel from Richmond every week – and you cannot ask more than that.”

ROSS: “AS SKIPPER I WAS PROUD OF ALL OF THE LADS TONIGHT”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Skipper Karl Ross spoke of the heartache within the dressing room after Ashington had lost their semi final of the Newcastle Flooring Northumberland Senior Cup against Newcastle United U21s at Woodhorn Lane on Thursday night.

The Colliers went down 2-1 and Ross said afterwards: “Walking into the dressing room at the end of the game, all of the lads had their heads down and were gutted because Newcastle have come here and we’ve played them off the park. Not many teams will do that to them – but for their two goals, they had that little bit of quality.”

Ross added: “Even trailing 1-0 at half time we spoke about it could be our last 45 minutes of the season. Therefore we had nothing to lose but to go out and give it our all. Jay Turner-Cooke scored with a free-kick into the top bin and there’s nothing you can do about them. After that it was just about going for it in the final 25 minutes; throwing everything at them and seeing what they’d got.”

He continued: “Things didn’t go for us like the drop of the ball, or the ball not bouncing for us but it was just good to see the lads go for it and I was proud of them all. We are a really close group – the closest group I’ve ever been with – so leading them out was a proud moment for me.”

Ross paid tribute to the supporters in a record breaking attendance of 1447 at Woodhorn Lane: “Every week the fans come out in their hundreds and to smash the previous best was just fantastic,” he said, “They really are our 12th man because you can hear them every minute. The fans are what make the club and we as players thrive off it – so on behalf all the lads, I’d just like to thank them for all of their support because it means a lot to us.”

SKINNER: “THE BOYS GAVE EVERYTHING”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Naturally disappointed after his side had lost their semi final in the Newcastle Flooring Northumberland Senior Cup 2-1 against Newcastle United U21s, Ashington manager Ian Skinner praised his entire squad for a spirited performance and said they ‘gave everything.’

Quality strikes from Dylan Stephenson in the first period and Jay Turner-Cooke shortly before the midway point in the second half put the young Magpies into a 2-0 lead before Dan Maguire reduced the arrears within a couple of minutes.

Ashington then threw everything at their opponents but just fell short.

Skinner said afterwards: “It’s a little bit strange because we’ve lost the game and an opportunity to get into a final at St James Park which would have been an unbelievable way to end the season but I’m sat here quite relaxed because the boys gave everything and I just thought every single one of them was excellent.”

The boss was happy with how his side began the game: “I thought we started really, really brightly and probably should have gone ahead when Wilson Kneeshaw has had a great chance and you would back him to score. We’ve had some great play and then Connor Thomson has had another opportunity when you would also fancy him to find the back of the net. However, Newcastle scored against the run of play with a ball over the top and Dylan Stephenson has run through, applied a great first touch and a great finish. Dylan has scored lots of goals for whilst on loan at South Shields towards the back end of the season and he’s a good player. I thought it was a little bit unjust and the game developed into a more even contest. We were looking to get the ball down and play whilst they (Newcastle) were looking to stretch our back line with Stephenson running in behind.”

Addressing his players during the interval, Skinner said “It was a case of saying to them ‘we’ve got 45 minutes to extend our season and I don’t want you to come in at the end with any regrets so go out there and give it your best shot’- and I thought they literally did go out there and they gave it everything. We took the game to Newcastle in the second half but then found ourselves 2-0 down. We got caught a little bit on the break but take nothing away, it’s a great finish into the top corner for their second goal. However, I just felt at times we wanted that extra touch or we wanted the perfect shooting opportunity and when you play against lads who are as sharp as they are (Newcastle), that extra touch gives them that split second to get a block in or get behind the ball.”

With the score at 2-0, Skinner to his bench and recalled the game between the two sides two seasons ago: “It’s funny because I turned to the dugout and said we came back from being 2-0 down to draw 2-2 the last time – only to go out on penalties – and within three minutes we had pulled one back through Dan Maguire who has been in good form over the last few weeks of the season. Again that shows the heart and the size within the group. Then we’ve really thrown everything at them. When you look at a team of their stature, they have felt the pressure and it shows you that we had them on the back foot really. Again we could have taken one or two more shooting opportunities and we’ve had some chances – with one blocked deep into injury time plus a penalty shout. But listen, every player in that dressing room tonight can be proud of the performance they’ve put in and they literally did leave everything out there but unfortunately we fell just short.”

The game was witnessed by a record breaking attendance of 1447 and Skinner added: “It was a magnificent crowd with great support as usual but it didn’t surprise me in the least that the previous highest (attendance) was surpassed. To be honest, I think they would all go away slightly disappointed that we lost the game – but as I walked around the pitch at the end, every supporter had nothing but kind words and positivity for the display that they had just watched by us against a good Newcastle side.”

ASHINGTON AFC ANNOUNCE NEW MANAGEMENT TEAM

Ashington FC are delighted to announce our new management team as Andy Coyles and Richie Hill, as they will be stepping into the head coaches’ roles for the upcoming 2024/25 season.

Having previously served as part of the management team along with outgoing Manager Ian Skinner, Coyles and Hill are already well-acquainted with the club. Andy and Rich have shown a clear understanding towards our fans passion and loyalty surrounding the football club and acknowledge in full, the demands of the Northern Premier League.

Andy, a Uefa ‘A’ licence coach, is an assistant professor and practitioner in sport coaching/PE at Northumbria University in Newcastle, and away from Ashington is the head coach of the England Universities National Team. Andy was also part of the club’s promotion success during the 22/23 season working alongside Ian Skinner.

Richie, also a Uefa ‘A’ licence coach has previous experiences at Hartlepool United FC followed by Spennymoor Town, where he was involved in their successful youth set up. In addition to that, Richie has also spent time at Middlesbrough FC’s academy where he was their lead U14’s-U16’s coach.

Andy and Richie share the same beliefs and values surrounding the game, and their strong working relationship will bring great enthusiasm and energy to the football club.

Both coaches’ have a wealth of experience of the non-league landscape and have previous experience of working together at Consett AFC.

Our new management team outlined “we are both delighted and honoured to be appointed as the new management team, here at Ashington. We know that the club has a proud history and we regard it as an honour and a privilege to be appointed at such an exciting time, both on and off the field. We have by far, one of the best supported clubs in the North East and we are both looking forward to sharing this journey together.”

Ian Skinner commented on the appointments, stating, “The decision to retain Andy and Richie reflects our commitment to building on the successes of last season and our survival at this level. Their understanding of the club and the league, coupled with their connection with the dressing room, was exactly what we were looking for.”

Brian Shotton added, “we had a meeting with some of the new board members to get to know Andy and Richie, it was clear following discussion straight after the meeting that this was the direction we wanted to head. They had answers to all the questions we had and aligned with where we saw the club headed next season. Last season was a difficult one with the rising costs around the club, which were generally out of our control, therefore having a coaching team bought into our overall mission for Ashington was key for us.”

As we push forward in a new chapter, we extend our gratitude to Ian Skinner for his contribution to the club as well as steering us into this league as a manager. Skinner will maintain a role as a Director at the club.

We look forward to next season to continue the journey and maintain the legacy of Ashington FC.

What you need to know ahead of our Senior Cup Semi Final match this Thursday

We are expecting a crowd close to capacity this Thursday so it will be a busy night. Please give this a read before coming to the game to ensure you know what the crack is.

TRAVELLING & CAR PARKING

Ashington AFC wishes to be a responsible community organisation and a good neighbour to all residents living locally. The Club would make the following appeal to anyone attending the Semi Final fixture on Thursday 2nd May and would like to thank you all in advance for your cooperation.

Whilst there are a limited number of car parking spaces at the club, the anticipated crowd will mean they will fill up early, we would urge anyone who is able, to leave their car at home.

Regular Bus Services running to Wansbeck Hospital include the

1 Blyth, Bedlington Station, Stakeford, Lynemouth, Ellington, Creswell and Widdrington

X21 Newcastle, Bedlington, Stakeford and Newbiggin by the sea

There is also considerable car parking in Ashington Town Centre and you can walk to the ground in 20 minutes from there.

Please do not block the highway or any drives or garages locally.

FOOD & DRINK

The clubhouse is located on the first floor of the main stand. As we expect the match to be busy there may be queues. Our staff will be working hard to serve as quickly as possible, please bear with them as they do so.

Tommo’s Pit Pony Can Bar will also be open and is located on the North East side of the ground in the black container. The bar will be selling cans of beer, lager, cider and soft drinks. This is CASH ONLY!

Katies Kitchen will be selling food as usual on the East Side of the ground behind the net.

The Hatch on the side of the main stand will be selling hotdogs and nachos.

PROGRAMMES

Printed match programmes will be available just beyond the turnstiles and can be purchased at a cost of £2. Whilst we will be printing more than usual, these may run out, so get them early.

50/50 DRAW

Our 50/50 Draw tickets will also be available inside the ground on Thursday night with half of the ticket sales going directly into the prize pot. We expect this to be of high value so get your tickets to be in with a chance of winning.

ROSS: “OUR MINDS CANNOT DRIFT FROM THE TASK WHICH LIES AHEAD”

By Brian Bennett | Photo: Ian Brodie

Ashington FC skipper Karl Ross has said that his team mates will have their minds entirely focussed on the task which lies ahead – nowhere else – when they face Newcastle United U21’s in the semi final of the Newcastle Flooring Northumberland Senior Cup at Woodhorn Lane on Thursday night (7.30pm kick-off).

Last Saturday the Colliers won for the first time in six games when they brushed North Ferriby aside in their last league fixture of the season in the Pitching In Northern Premier League’s East Division.

The Wansbeck outfit ran out 2-0 winners and the result prompted Ashington-born Ross to say: “We enjoyed the day – but we’ve put that behind us now and it’s all about us focussing on the Newcastle game. It’s a great incentive knowing that the final will be held at St James’ Park and I know the lads would love to get through and play there because it’s something which players all dream about. However we’ve got to put that to the back of our minds and fully concentrate on Thursday’s clash which we are really looking forward to.”

The midfielder is looking for a noisy atmosphere from the home supporters: “Our fans have been unbelievable for us all season and they will come out in their hundreds,” he added, “We want them to get behind us because they are a great 12th man and can spur us on.”