Kitching returns to his roots – without mascot Jess

Rob Kitching with Jess.
Rob Kitching with Jess.

Ashington High School Sports College will be spurred on by a healthy following of fans on Friday as they bid to reach the quarter- finals of the ESFA National Cup.

The Wansbeck side travel to Yorkshire where they will go head to head with Wetherby High School.

But there will be one notable absentee on the day.

Jess the dog has been a lucky mascot for the Green Lane-based outfit, but the Tibeten Terrier is unable to make the journey.

However, Jess’s owner, Rob Kitching, principal at Ashington High, will make the journey down the A1 for a match which will see the 51-year-old return to his roots – even though he admits that the occasion will hold no sentiment.

“I was born in Harrogate but lived in Wetherby,” he said.

“When I was three-years-old we moved to Durham and I played all of my football with Morpeth Town, Ashington, Blyth Spartans and Morpeth St George’s Sunday team.

“My allegiance is to this area and whilst it will be nice to go back to Wetherby, there will be no sentiment whatsoever.”

Kitching, a lifelong Leeds United supporter who idolised centre forward Allan ‘sniffer’ Clarke and who used to be a season ticket holder when the likes of Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer played at Elland Road, believes his school team can progress on Friday.

“The way they are playing at the moment, I think they have a very good chance,” he said

“But more than anything else, they work as a team and there are no stars.

“We are taking a 70-seater coach down to Yorkshire including students from the sixth form and Year 10, who will give the lads plenty of vocal support.”

Kitching, who declared that football has always been and always will remain his passion, is full of praise for team manager Marc Nash.

“I taught Marc at Willington High School in Wallsend when I was director of sport,” he said.

“We got through to the second round of the National Cup but lost against a team from York, so Marc has eclipsed me by seeing his team make further progress.

“It is a dream come true and is fantastic for him that he is doing what I used to do.”

Kitching reckons that Nash should have gone further in his own footballing career.

He added: “I taught Alan Thompson who played for Newcastle United and Celtic as well as Michael Bridges, who found fame with Sunderland and Leeds United, and I still maintain that Marc has got the best left foot I have ever seen.

“He was also one of the best finishers and in my opinion and should have entered the professional ranks.”

As for Friday’s contest, it’s a sure bet that Jess will be on the ‘dog and bone’ to her master for live score updates.