A key member of Ashington FC’s backroom staff has stepped down from their position.
For five and a half years Leanne Symonds has been club physiotherapist, but she has told the club she is standing down due to “personal reasons and other commitments”.
Symonds was due to be in the dugout for the final time last weekend when the Colliers were scheduled to face league leaders Shildon at Dean Street – until the game was called off because of a waterlogged surface.
An admin assistant for Northumberland County Council, Newcastle-born Symonds said: “I’m sad to be leaving but I felt I needed to take a break.
“I’d like to place on record my sincere thanks to Ashington’s previous manager Gary Middleton for giving me the opportunity to carry out the job of physio and also to boss Steve Harmison.
“I have met some really nice lads at the club, both past and present, like Craig Scott and Darren Lough, and saying farewell last Saturday to the likes of Andrew Johnson, James Taylor, Matty Grieve and Ben Christensen was emotional because they have become like brothers to me.
“On Tuesday I will be at training as my son Ewan also wants to say goodbye.”
Symonds said the club’s run in the FA Cup and FA Vase a few years ago, as well as the Northumberland Senior Cup success win over Whitley Bay at St James Park in 2013, were her memorable highlights.
“All of the lads have been good and I wish everyone at Ashington FC all the best for the future,” she added.
Manager Steve Harmison said that Symonds lit up the dressing room and he was “gutted” to hear of her decision.
“When I came to the club as manager 13 months ago, I carried one person over in the backroom staff, and that was Leanne,” he said.
“I am gutted that she has decided to take a step back from the football side.
“Because of the time she has given to us, she was invaluable and being part of our establishment, every time she walked into the building we enjoyed seeing her because she lit up the room.
“Leanne and her son Ewan will always be welcome in the dressing room.
“She has been a gem to this club and was an integral part of the regime before I came in and she will be sorely missed.
“Physiotherapists are arguably the most important people in the management group, and Leanne carried out what is a difficult job with the utmost respect and honour.”
Woodhorn Lane club chairman Ian Lavery said: “Leanne has been an outstanding servant to Ashington CFC as an extremely valued part of the club operations as physio.
“I fully understand her decision but at the same time I am disappointed to lose such a warm committed person.
“I would like to wish her and her family the very best of luck for the future and remind her that the door will always remain open here at Ashington.”
“Former boss Gary Middleton said: “I brought Leanne to Ashington FC and people like her put in a lot of hours for the love of the club.
“Physiotherapists try to get players fit as soon as possible and Leanne gave great dedication to the cause.
“They don’t get a lot of praise but their role goes to getting players onto the pitch after injury and they give a lot of time which people don’t see.
“Leanne has been a loyal member of the backroom staff at Ashington under me and Steve and it’s sad to see her leave the game.
“I wish her all the best for the future.”
Current players also praised Symonds.
Skipper Andrew Johnson said: “Leanne has been there week in, week out, at training sessions and on match days, and we the players thank her for everything she has done.
“She joined in with the craic in the dressing room and loved being part of it.
“She was a good person to have around and I know how much she will miss it and we wish her well.”
James Harmison said: “Leanne will be a massive miss because all of the lads loved her.
“Nothing was a bother to her and her shoes will be hard to fill.
“I’m disappointed that she is going but I respect her.”
Paul Dunn said: “It’s a shame that Leanne has decided to leave as she has been part of the club for a long time.
“The first time I was at Ashington and broke my leg, she was very supportive for me and is someone whom I have a lot of time for. She looked after the lads well and will be a big miss.”
James Taylor said: “Leanne has been at the club for as long as I have and it’s a real shame because we are a family to her.
“There have been plenty of ups and downs at the club but she has always been there as the backbone to the squad in the dressing rooms.
“With the changes over the last year and a half, she has provided the consistency in the club and always been available for treatment or to have a chat.”
Matty Grieve said: “Leanne had a good relationship with all of the lads and is going to be a miss.
“She has been through everything with us as a group – including runs in the FA Cup, FA Vase and winning the Northumberland Senior Cup.
“She was one of the pivotal points of the group and it’s a shame she is leaving us.
“She will be a massive miss but leaves with a lot of good memories.”
Ben Christensen said: “Fortunately I have not have too many injuries, but when I did take a knock, Leanne was excellent and looked after me.
“I’m disappointed that she is leaving because she has been a fantastic servant and will be a huge miss.”
Ben Harmison said: “Touch wood, I’ve been OK and haven’t been injured, but the work she did with the lads was phenomenal.
“She was the first one in the dressing room and last out and always cheered you up.
“She has done a good job and her boots are massive to fill for whoever comes in to replace her.
“We are all going to miss her but hopefully she will come back one day.”
In 2008, Symonds hit the headlines when she became the millionth entrant to take part in the Great North Run.