Last season most challenging yet for Middleton

Ashington CFC manager Gary Middleton.
Ashington CFC manager Gary Middleton.

Ashington manager Gary Middleton said last season provided him with his most challenging campaign in eight years of soccer management.

The Colliers boss saw his side end the 2013-14 term in sixth place in the first division of the Ebac Northern League.

It was a feat he described as being both fantastic and successful.

They also lost out in two cup semi-finals.

The ex-midfielder said: “How do you judge success? Is it by winning a trophy? Because if it is, there are only a certain few available.

“The biggest disappointment for us last year was reaching two semi-finals against Blyth Spartans in the Northumberland Senior Cup and Marske United in the League Cup – and losing both – as it would have been a remarkable achievement to have got through.

“But the Ebac is a really competitive league where there is not much separating the top 12 teams, and for us to finish sixth was fantastic and successful.”

Middleton had to overcome several obstacles along the way.

He said: “We lost our captain (Liam Atkin) and centre half (Matty Grieve) and how would any other team cope after having the spine of their team ripped out?

“By October Lance McGlen was sidelined for three months through injury and we had to rebuild.

“Lads like Scott Blandford and Lee Scott came in and did remarkable jobs for us at a time when we were trying to get 11 fit players on the park.

“A job away from the area saw us lose Phil Bell, then Celtic Nation made approaches for Andrew Johnson and Kyle Oliver, and although the Carlisle-based outfit were rebuffed on both occasions, it still had an impact from our point of view.

“Darren Lough returned to Iceland before Craig Scott changed his job a month prior to the end of the season, which involved a move down to London, enforcing a fourth defensive change.”

However, Middleton said there were positives.

“On the plus side, Ben Christensen was outstanding, James Novak made a big difference after signing for us from Whitley Bay, and the form of James Taylor was highly commendable coupled to Glen Taylor scoring 35 goals and Johnson 30.

“But when I look back over five years in charge of Ashington and eight years overall, last season was my most challenging.”