GARY Middleton will stress to his players the importance of getting the new campaign off to a good start when they take on Sunderland RCA in the FA Cup at Woodhorn Lane on Saturday.
However, just what playing squad Ashington manager Middleton, pictured, will be able to select from will remain a closely guarded secret.
The boss admits to having to play a ‘waiting game’ with doubts surrounding several key members.
He said: “It’s imperative that we get off to a good start.
“This will be our fourth campaign at the club and we have never begun well.
“This pre-season we have put in a few more games but even this has worked against us due to the number of injuries we have picked up, which is naturally concerning at this time.
“It is frustrating because from a managerial point of view you want everyone available and I’m not sure that that is going to be the case come 3pm on Saturday.”
Jonny Godsmark and Gareth Rees are already long term casualties and Andrew Johnson is unavailable whilst Middleton has fitness concerns surrounding striker Marc Walton, midfielder Andy Dugdale and defender Gareth Williams.
“Marc has hurt his knee and although we believe it is only badly bruised, we are sending him for a scan,” he said.
“He hasn’t trained for ten days and although we are not ruling him out, time is running out.
“Andy has a slight hamstring strain and again hasn’t trained or played and it’s a similar scenario with Gareth who has a thigh strain.”
Middleton described Saturday’s curtain raiser as being a massive game for the club.
“After our exploits last season, everyone knows how much a good cup run can generate extra interest, attract more spectators and bring vital finance to the club,” he said.
“It’s going to be tough against Sunderland RCA in more ways than one.
“They won both games quite comfortably against us last season, which from our point of view was bitterly disappointing and we’ll be trying to turn that around.
“It will also be tough going first up into our first competitive match in an FA Cup tie, but it is a game which we have got to get on with and do our best to try and progress.”
The prize awaiting Saturday’s victor is £1,000.
Meanwhile in a change of personnel behind the scenes, Brian Robson has taken over as football secretary from Gavin Perry who has stepped down due to increased work commitments.