Category: First Team

HAYES: “IT’S GOOD TO BE BACK”

By Brian Bennett

Kyle Hayes has put pen to paper at Ashington – with the ‘keeper making a return to the club he first signed for when he finished junior football.

For the past four and a half seasons, the 31 year old – a logistics and supply chain co ordinator – has been with Consett, who secured promotion at the end of the last campaign and who will now participate in the Northern Premier League Division One East.

Hayes said: “Due to the amount of travelling involved in the higher league plus family commitments, I couldn’t commit to playing at Consett. I spoke to manager Ian Skinner and things moved on from there but I was born in Ashington – who were my first club out of junior football under the management of Andy Gowens – so it’s good to be back.”

He continued: “The club have made a statement with the signings the manager has brought in and I’m looking forward to it. On top of that, I live at Blyth so it’s nice and close for me.”

Manager Ian Skinner said: “It all happened very quickly and was not something we had planned for because we were not looking to strengthen our goalkeeping department. However when Kyle became available and expressed an interest in joining Ashington the process speeded up somewhat. Kyle had a desire to play for us and lives down the road. He is another fantastic goalkeeper to add to our squad and adds competition for the ‘keeper’s jersey alongside Karl Dryden.”

Hayes is expected to make his second debut for Ashington at some stage tonight (Tuesday July 5), when the Colliers travel to face Alnwick Town in their first warm up match of the campaign. Kick-off is 7.30pm.

ASHINGTON TO HOST CLEATOR CUP FINAL AFTER SWITCH

By Brian Bennett

The Ebac Northern League’s Cleator Cup final clash between North Shields and Ashington will now be staged at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday July 23.

The decision was made last week for what is the curtain raiser to the start of the new season after North Shields – the first division champions last term – announced that due to maintenance work, their pitch at the Daren Persson Stadium would not be ready in time.

The ENL instantly made contact with Ashington – winners of the Division One Cup – to see if the game could be switched and the Woodhorn Lane outfit gave the thumbs up.

Colliers manager Ian Skinner said: “My reactions were twofold. First of all it was nice to play at home which means the fans of our club can come out in their numbers as opposed to travelling to North Shields but then I had a bit of trepidation as we will now play three games on our pitch in a week followed by a multitude of home matches with five of our opening six league fixtures at Woodhorn Lane.”

He continued: “Albeit it may be pre season but the Cleator Cup is an opportunity for us to win silverware so we’ll be taking the game seriously. In addition, it is being held seven days before our league season starts and will give us a clear indication of how well prepared we are.”

Kick-off is 3pm.

SKINNER: “PRE SEASON IS GOING REALLY WELL”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC begin a series of warm up games on Tuesday (July 5) when they make the short trip up the Northumberland coast to play Alnwick Town at St James’ Park (7.30pm kick-off).

And manager Ian Skinner is looking forward to seeing his revamped squad in competitive action after revealing that pre season at Woodhorn Lane is going ‘really well.’

Skinner said: “We’ve had four really good sessions – and as you would expect, a lot of the players have reported back in very good shape which is the modern way. It is a delight because it is their job to be fit whilst it is my job to mould them together and get them to interact with each other and to make a squad out of them. Fitness levels have been good and we’ve started to drop in some tactical practices around how we want to play for next season.”

He continued: “Things are going along really well and we are very much looking forward to the warm up games – and so are the players – because they will openly tell you that they would much prefer to play rather than to train. The players will be in twice again this week leading into the first friendly at Alnwick – then the games come thick and fast after that. However, I’m pleased with how things are shaping up and as the captain (Ben Harmison) has already said, the talking stops and the business starts!”

Ashington’s second friendly – which also has a 7.30pm start – is away to Blyth Town on Friday July 8.

SKINNER EXPRESSES MIXED REACTIONS AFTER FIXTURES ARE RELEASED

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner expressed mixed reactions after the new fixtures for the 2022/23 were released by the Ebac Northern League on Friday.

After contesting the Cleator Cup final against North Shields on Saturday July 23, the Colliers begin their Ebac Northern League first division programme with a clash against Seaham Red Star at Woodhorn Lane a week later (Saturday July 30) which is followed by a visit from Northallerton Town three days later and Skinner said: “It’s always nice to start with a home game – albeit we haven’t got a great record against Seaham in recent seasons and last year they completed a double over us but we’ll prepare properly and look forward to it. Obviously we’ll potentially have some debutants and a potential for a good crowd so it’s got the makings of being a really good game – but we’ll be looking to get off to a positive start.”

He continued: “However, I’m disappointed with several other aspects. Four out of our first five league fixtures are at home and although people may question my argument, it’s almost a fifth of the season’s home games within the first month so there’s a multitude of things like terms of revenue into the club and supporters who are maybes not season ticket holders simply not being able to afford it. I’m a traditionalist and I would prefer a home and away basis. I’m also disappointed with some of the away fixtures early in the season. We go to Carlisle City on a Tuesday night and the following midweek we travel to Penrith. Later on we have the journey to Redcar and going there midweek last season was a disaster – even though we won 4-1. We got five minutes to warm up and it was late on that we came back to secure the victory because the preparation had been poor. If we played the likes of Carlisle, Penrith and Redcar on a weekend, as a club you’ve got more chance of your fans travelling whereas it’s going to be really difficult for supporters to make the midweek trek and it will hamper player availability – there’s no doubt about that. Plus I’m sure fans could make a ten miles trip down the road as opposed to an 100 mile round journey midweek. Then some of our closest games against the likes of West Allotment Celtic and Newcastle Benfield are on a Saturday – which I think is baffling.”

He went on: “Further down the fixture list, I also can’t understand why we play Heaton Stannington twice in the space of ten days whilst the away game at Pickering – and without looking too far ahead – is fixtured on a cup weekend. So if we get through in the cup then Pickering could potentially become another midweek travel for us. I’ve seen some reaction on social media and the league have put out some correspondence saying a couple of issues have been raised by clubs about dates for certain matches and they are aware of these issues and will address them as soon as they can.”

HARMISON: “THE TALKING IS DONE – NOW WE’VE GOT TO DO THE BUSINESS ON THE PITCH”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC skipper Ben Harmison says the talking has been done and now it’s up to the players at Woodhorn Lane to perform on the pitch.

Manager Ian Skinner called his players in for the start of pre season training last week – and Harmison is the captain of a squad excited by the challenge which lies ahead. He commented: “The boss has brought six new players in and they are not coming here for an easy ride – they are going to push the younger lads all the way through. After the statement which the club have made by making the signings, we are not going to be happy just to finish in mid table – we want to win things.”

The 36 year old added: “We are going to set out to try and do as well as we can in everything. There’s obviously promotion to target but we would like a run in the FA Vase. I think it is the ambition of every non league footballer to do well in the Vase competition – and to go on and win it – with the final being staged at Wembley Stadium.” He continued: “The club want to progress and go up and that’s fine – but it’s up to the squad to gel together, show that ambition and attitude as well as work rate and put on performances. The talking is done – now as players, we’ve got to do the business on the pitch.”

SKIPPER HARMISON: “WE NEED A GOOD PRE SEASON”

By Brian Bennett

The players returned to pre season training at Ashington FC last week – and skipper Ben Harmison says that the lead up to the start of the new campaign is vital.

Manager Ian Skinner has been busy during the summer bringing in Robbie Dale, Andrew Cartwright, Lee Mason, Darren Lough, Damen Mullen and Dan Maguire.

And Harmison reckons the next few weeks are key: “We had two good sessions last week,” he said, “There were lots of ball work and a good chance for the newcomers to meet the others from last season. There were a couple of the new lads missing due to being away on holiday but of the ones who were there, there attitudes and work rate were spot on. Like last year, there’s definitely a buzz and a good-feel factor around the club but the most important thing for us as players is to get a good pre season under our belts because we want to hit the ground running when the league starts. We’ve got some good, exciting friendlies coming up and we’ve got a big squad at the minute but it’s just good to have that experience. I look around the group now and there’s so much talent in the camp with some players having played in higher leagues and we can’t wait for the season to start.”

Ashington, the winners of the inaugural Ebac Northern League Division One Cup, will meet North Shields, the first division champions at the Daren Persson Stadium on Saturday July 23 to contest the Cleator Cup. The league programme begins a week later on July 30 with the new fixtures being released by the ENL on Friday.

SKINNER: “MAGUIRE SIGNING IS THE CHERRY ON THE TOP OF THE CAKE!”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington FC manager Ian Skinner has described the signing of striker Dan Maguire as being the ‘cherry on the top of the cake.’

The Colliers announced Maguire’s arrival to Woodhorn Lane on Saturday taking Skinner’s tally of newcomers during the close season to six after Robbie Dale, Andrew Cartwright, Lee Mason, Darren Lough and Damen Mullen all put pen to paper recently.

And afterwards, a beaming Skinner said: “We are delighted to add Dan Maguire to the squad for the coming season in what is another great coup for the club and for me, it is the cherry on the top of the cake. You only need to look at the career Dan has had to date and the clubs he has represented to see the quality and attacking threat that he will bring to our squad. I have worked with Dan before when he was a young player representing the County and I have kept in touch and followed his footballing journey.”

He continued: “Dan had many clubs vying for his signature, many who offered him better financial packages than the one he has agreed with Ashington. However he wanted to help the club move forward with what we are trying to achieve, in an environment where he could enjoy his football and hopefully return to the form which saw him score all those goals for Blyth Spartans in the National League North. It did help that Dan knew, as well as having played with a number of the players we have brought to the club in the close season and it is hoped that this will help him settle in quickly and hit the ground running.”

He went on: “Last season, we played a lot of games without a recognised centre forward with Dean Briggs operating as makeshift striker but the signing of Dan gives us another option and with Adam Johnson and Jamie Hanson back from injury, we will have competition for players in forward positions.”

Skinner went on: “I have always said since I returned to the club that I wanted to progress year on year. Last season was a good year which ended with us winning the Ebac Northern League’s Division One cup. Next season, we as a group want to build on last season’s success and see if we can take the next step forward and the six signings we have made, we feel will give us a good chance of achieving our aims. The fact that we have been able to sign the six players that we have and add them to what was a good group last season, shows that the club is very much moving in the right direction and that Ashington is a club on the up.” Skinner’s players return for pre season training this week and he added: “It has come around very quickly to be honest. However it’s great to bring the players in and work with them which give us a better chance to be prepared for the start of the season.”

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• Exclusive sponsorship of your favourite Ashington AFC Player

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To enquire about availability of your desired player please e-mail sponsorship@ashingtonafc.com

CARTWRIGHT: “I’M LOOKING FOR BACK TO BACK PROMOTIONS”

By Brian Bennett

Andrew Cartwright is hoping to achieve back to back promotions – with different clubs in the Ebac Northern League.

The 27 year old – one of five new signings made by Ashington manager Ian Skinner – put pen to paper after switching from Ebac Northern League first division champions North Shields.

Now the full back says he would like nothing better than to replicate the league success he had at North Shields last season – with the Colliers this time round.

The extra travelling involved with Shields was going to prove difficult for Newcastle-born Cartwright – who runs his own football coaching business – and he said: “I loved my time with them (North Shields) and winning the title was the icing on the cake. Now I’d like to do it again. Joining Ashington presents me with a fresh challenge and I’m looking forward to my time with them. They had a good team last year and have strengthened the squad and it is an exciting opportunity for me to take on board. I already know a few of the lads and I had no hesitation about signing for them.”

The Gosforth-based full back added: “It’s a tough league and you have got to be consistent but hopefully the experienced players will help in that department.”

Ashington boss Ian Skinner said: “Andrew comes with great pedigree in terms of having played for Blyth Spartans then he went off to play in Australia and obviously played in the very successful North Shields side last season. He’s predominantly a right full back and is really good from set plays so that will be an added bonus for us as well. Once I was aware that he could be looking to stay in the Northern League, he was someone who I was very, very keen to bring to the football club.” He continued: “Signing Andrew wasn’t just about what he can do on the pitch because he also fits into the type of character this football club wants to bring in – in terms of off the pitch and I think he’ll turn out to be a very good signing for us.”

MASON: “WE WANT TO GIVE EVERYBODY CONNECTED WITH THE CLUB A BIT OF EXCITEMENT”

By Brian Bennett

Ashington’s new striker Lee Mason has set the bar high with the ambitions he would like to see come to fruition at Woodhorn Lane.

Mason was the third signing made by manager Ian Skinner who came through the doors last week – and the Newcastle-born forward was quick to point out that ‘exciting times’ are ahead.

At the beginning of last month, the Colliers ended a barren run of nine years without having won any silverware when they lifted the Ebac Northern League’s Division One Cup with a convincing 4-1 victory over Newcastle Benfield.

And Mason, brought in from Dunston UTS, sees what was a special moment for the club when skipper Ben Harmison held the trophy aloft, as being a springboard for further success: “With the personnel that the manager is bringing in to boost last season’s squad, it’s exciting times at the club – and I cannot wait to get started,” he said, “I’ve personally never won the Northern League title – but that’s got to be our aim next season along with having good runs in all of the cups as well as the FA Vase. It’s not just about contesting in every game either – it’s actually about going all the way in the various competitions and bringing the club more success. We want to give the fans and everybody connected with the club a bit of excitement and something to smile and shout about – and hopefully we can get the crowd behind us.”

The 31 year old continued: “I’m really delighted to be joining. Once I had spoken to the manager, the way he sold the club talking about where they would like to be and their ambitions, it was a no brainer for me.”

Mason who is based at Blyth and who works for Northumberland County Council, has played in front of the new stand at Woodhorn Lane – and the Colliers fans – before: “A couple of years ago I was on loan at Hebburn from South Shields and we played at Ashington,” he added, “I got onto the pitch as a substitute for about ten minutes and in my eyes, the club (Ashington) have the best facilities in the Northern League.”

Manager Skinner was buzzing after Mason had put pen to paper: “Lee is a forward thinking player and when we signed him, the news may have raised a few eyebrows because we scored over 100 goals last season. However when a player of Lee’s quality becomes available it would have been crazy for us not to be interested. He’s a player I’ve chased on numerous occasions and I’m delighted to be successful in capturing his signature this time round.” He continued: “Lee can play anywhere across the front; as an out an out striker; behind the striker as a number ten or he can operate in a wide area. I’m sure the fans will enjoy watching him because he gets the ball and he likes to run at players and go past people and he chips in with his own fair share of goals. He is another good character to have around both on and off the pitch – and on top of that he’ll fit into what is already a very good group of players that we have here at Ashington.”