MANAGER Gary Middleton has declared that he will be the “proudest man in the country” on Saturday when he leads his Ashington team out at Blundell Park for the FA Cup tie against Grimsby Town.
The Colliers go into the game knowing a win will put them in the first round proper for the first time in 50 years.
But they will need to beat a side who were in the Football League up until only two years.
Middleton said at the weekend: “It’s definitely going to be a proud moment for me as team boss and by far my biggest achievement in management, walking out there and leading the team in which the majority of the lads will probably be facing the biggest game they will ever have played.
“It is a great occasion for the club – and whilst we are going to go down there to enjoy it, our intention is to win a game of football.
“We’ll have two training sessions this week focusing on Saturday, and I cannot wait.
“From a personal point of view, I am going to be the proudest man in the country.”
As usual, Middleton, pictured, and his assistant Neil Winskill will do their homework on the Blue Square Bet Premier League, side who are 15th in the table and who after Friday’s 1-0 reverse at home to Luton Town, have now lost their last three games.
“I have spoken to a couple of managers and I have a few matches with Grimsby on DVD which I will be watching this week,” said Middleton.
“But rest assured, we’ll give it our best shot as we’ve done in the previous rounds and hopefully that will be good enough on the day to either win the game or get a draw to bring them back to Woodhorn Lane for a replay, which would be a major achievement.
“Everyone is looking forward to it, there’s a buzz around the club.
“Yes, they are firm favourites on the day being four leagues above us in the pyramid system, but once again they have got everything to lose and we have everything to gain.”
Middleton goes into the game with a full squad to choose from apart from the three long term injury victims Gareth Bainbridge, Darren Lough and Stephen Young.
Midfielders Mark O’Dea and Andy Dugdale both have slight knocks but are expected to be fit.
O’Dea failed a fitness test on a slight calf strain and was consequently ruled out of Saturday’s STL Northern League first division clash at Stokesley whilst Dugdale was substituted during that game during the second half.
However both players are adamant that they will be ready.
O’Dea said: “If I had played last Saturday, I may have been struggling for this weekend so it was best to rest.
“I’m hoping to train this week and should be okay for Saturday.”
Dugdale said: “I jarred my knee and I came off purely as a precaution.
“Like Mark, I’m also hoping to complete our training sessions this week but I’ll be fine for Saturday.”
Manager Middleton said: “With the exception of the three well documented injuries to Bainbridge, Lough and Young, we should be at full strength.”
n More previews on Page 87