For the majority of his teenage years which led to him signing a two and a half year professional contract, Kyle Oliver had an affinity with Middlesbrough.
He started his footballing journey at Ashington and later Cramlington Juniors, then to Sunderland’s academy before moving to Boro, where he regularly played for the reserves and became captain.
His debut for the Riverside outfit against Newcastle United saw him play against Jonny Godsmark, and later in the same week he came face to face with Sunderland’s Nathan Luscombe, who is now at Celtic Nation.
However, Oliver parted company with Middlesbrough in the closing weeks of his contract and put pen to paper for his home town team Ashington in the summer.
“Whenever I got the opportunity I used to watch Ashington in action at Woodhorn Lane, and from a playing perspective I knew it would be different to what I had been used to,” he said.
“Some people think the standard of football in the Northern League has gone and that the league is a bit of a pushover.
“They are entitled to their opinions, of course, but for my money, the quality is top notch and has certainly not surprised me.
“I have had to adapt on at least two fronts because apart from the game at non league level being more physical, the pitches have also been different.
“Until last summer and for the past six years, I had been playing on what I would call ‘bowling green’ surfaces.
“However, it doesn’t matter to me so long as the team are winning.
“I am really enjoying my football with Ashington and am passionate about the club, and when I pull on that shirt I always give my best.
“The management team of Gary Middleton and Perry Briggs as well as my team-mates and the fans have been fantastic in helping me to settle in, and we have a great team spirit within the camp.
“The banter in the dressing room is excellent, as is our togetherness on the pitch, and we always give our all and back each other up.
“We are fifth in the Ebac Northern League first division table and deservedly so because I think we are a top five side, if not higher.
“On our day we can beat anyone, but the main thing we are striving for is consistency.
“Another aspect of my game which I have improved on is my disciplinary record.
“I am passionate about my team and I only want the best for us, and after picking up a few cautions earlier in the season for dissent, I have learned to bite my tongue.
“Referees and their assistants have got hard jobs, it’s an old cliché but it goes without saying that if there is no official then there is no game and I have respect for them.
“I have bumped into some of my old team-mates recently when we met Whitley Bay and Billingham Synthonia, and I still reckon a few of these lads – as well as some from other clubs in the division including Ashington – could go on to making a living from the game in the professional ranks, which only strengthens what I said earlier, that the Northern League is top notch.”