Ashington Football Club is searching for a new manager in the wake of Steve Harmison’s decision to resign last night.
The former England cricket star stated he had left for ‘non-footballing reasons’.
Harmison said: “Two-and-a-half years ago, I accepted the opportunity to be manager of a club in a town that I love.
“It’s been a massive challenge and I’ve had some great people play for me, I’ve had some good people work with me and I’ve worked for some excellent people.
“The chairman (Ian Lavery MP) is somebody who I think the world of and what he does in this area.
“I’ve got a reputation in the sporting world; As MP for Wansbeck, Ian’s reputation in the political world because of the area he represents and what goes on in this area supersedes anything that anybody does.
“He stands up there with his big chest out, shouts, screams, bawls and gives everything for this area.
“I have tried to do that on his behalf for this football club, but unfortunately I spoke to him six weeks ago with concerns of where I believe this football club stands.
“The team have done excellent this year. They have played five of the top seven – five of them away from home – and could have been six or seven points better off.
“Unfortunately, they are not and that’s where they are as a club, so I came to the conclusion that the best thing for me would be to leave Ashington FC – but in doing so, I wish them all the best in everything they do.
“I’ll still support them and try to enhance the name of Ashington FC.”
He added: “I’m not going to cast aspersions. We have got a great chairman, a great leader of this area, but unfortunately Ashington FC needs this on a daily basis – club people to drive it forwards – and I don’t believe they have got that and because of that, I think they are standing still.
“The back end of Gary Middleton’s tenureship and all of my tenureship, has been this club standing still and I don’t think that will change and that is why I have come to this decision.
“We had a fully qualified physio (Jay Robertson) and a kit man and the biggest loss to Ashington FC is not myself, Lee Hall as goalkeeping coach or Lee Anderson as assistant manager, but Alan Brown (kit man) because of the person who goes with it.
“And when all the management staff are leaving, it tells you that there is something not quite right.
“I’ve never been somebody to hold back and I want to portray the truth. All I have done over the last two-and-a-half years is to try and make the club better.
“Maybe I’ve been too professional and that’s why I have cut ties and feel I have got to move on.
“At 16 years old I represented this football club – at 18 I had to stop playing. I came back as manager with my best mate Lee Anderson and Ian Skinner.
“The players are gutted about the news, but things will move on and someone else will come in.
“Ashington FC should be, with the history of this town and the sporting tradition which they have got, one of the big names in lights in non-league football.
“I have not left for footballing reasons, I have left for non-footballing reasons. That’s a concern, but hopefully it’s a positive.
“Ian Lavery will still remain one of my closest friends and I will respect him as a person, as an MP and as a professional because I know what it’s like to be in the public eye.
“He has my utmost respect and this club will always remain really, really close to my heart.
“Unfortunately, the honesty I have always had as a person and a professional has come out today.
“I have decided ‘enough is enough’ and I have decided to leave the club.
“The lads on the playing side are brilliant. We have got four 18-year-olds on that pitch most games and the club has made the best start in a number of years.
“We were getting somewhere and unfortunately this is the most disappointing thing. I have said to them (the players) that we have literally run our race and we cannot do this any more.”
Mr Lavery said: “It is with great regret that the executive board has decided to accept Steve Harmison’s resignation.
“The football team has been doing well on the pitch and we have got a good squad of players together, so the news is disappointing.
“However, we will be looking to remedy the situation in the shortest space of time to make sure we put a new management structure in place to take the club forward.
“Steve and his entire family are brilliant friends of mine. I have spoken to Steve and simply told him he will be welcomed back with open arms whenever he returns to the club.
“He is a great fella and is an inspiration to everybody. He is a hero – not just in this part of the world, but across the globe and I wish him the very, very best of luck in whatever he tries to achieve.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s away clash against North Shields, Mr Lavery said: “We have got a plan on paper, but we just need to execute it and I’m confident that we will do it to make sure that we are ship-shape and Bristol fashion for 3pm tomorrow.
“I’ll be speaking to the players beforehand to reassure them that we have got plans going forward.”