Cautious Middleton reflects on season

Ashington CFC manager Gary Middleton - having seen his side win their first piece of silverware under his leadership in the season just ended – has delivered a precautionary warning that continued success is not a foregone conclusion.

The Colliers lifted the Northumberland Senior Cup for the first time in 33 years after a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Whitley Bay at St James Park at the beginning of May and it is hoped the win will provide a springboard to lead to other joy.

But a cautious Middleton said at the weekend: “People shouldn’t jump to conclusions that success is automatically going to come every season. Yes, we will be striving to achieve something of the same stamp but who can say what will happen?”

Middleton’s words came as he reflected on a season in which he described his players as being ‘terrific’ – in the light of having to contend with so many other factors.

He said: “Right from our first friendly, we lost Jonny Godsmark with a broken leg and that was followed by severe injuries to Phill Bell and Josh Gray. Then I was out of action for two to three weeks with meningitis; my assistant Neil Winskill left us to take up another post with Newcastle United; Richie Bond stepped down due to work commitments and taking all these factors into consideration, I would say that the football team achieved great things.

“We had a good run then for a spell after Christmas, were hit by bad injuries, illnesses and changes to staff including where Anthony Woodhouse came in as assistant then left to become manager at Newcastle Benfield then Perry Briggs arriving as my new assistant – all things which the players had to overcome mentally.

“They have done superbly well for us to finish where we have in the league and it is great the way they have managed with the happenings off the field. I know we ended in fifth place in the league the previous campaign but to finish in seventh place last season was still a great achievement.

“We have made great strides in four years and obviously to win the Northumberland Senior Cup was something that we wanted to achieve. We had a little period over Christmas, January and February where we dropped a lot of points at home against the likes of Shildon, Dunston, Whitley Bay and Bishop Auckland and had we not done so then who knows where we would have ended up. We are always looking for consistency but it is an easier thing to say that to actually carry out and for us to be competing to be in the top six of the Northern League tells how far we have come.”

He added: “Last season was a successful season as my players brought silverware to the club. However as a team, we will continue to strive to better ourselves to achieve bigger and better things. It was the performance against Whitley Bay at St James’ Park which thrilled me as we lifted the Cup - and how comfortable were we against a side who finished third in the League.” He went on: “We want to try and emulate lifting a trophy but only four teams win silverware at our level and it will not be easy because no one is given the right to win things. In August we will be striving to do better but we must take one step at a time.” Middleton concluded by adding: “I would like to say a big thank you to all the players that have had an input into our successful season; to the chairman Ian Lavery and the Executive Board for all their hard work behind the scenes and to our fantastic supporters who once again did the town and club proud throughout the season.”