It was all a dream – until Ashington Juniors U16s manager Gary Bell and his squad woke up to the reality of having experienced an exceptional, yet unbelievable, inaugural season in the Gateshead Apollo League.
And last Friday night, Stannington-born Bell – a civil servant – and his playing staff were duly congratulated for their efforts at Ashington FC’s annual presentation ceremony where they proudly paraded the league championship trophy.
They boasted a 100 per cent record after stringing together 19 consecutive victories, scoring 129 goals in the process and only conceding 15.
A clearly delighted Bell said: “For the past four or five years I had been managing East Northumberland but once the lads get to U15 age that’s when it stops so it tied in with the time that Tom Wade – who came in to assist Steve Harmison at the start of last season – actually said to me ‘Can we put something in place to hopefully bring the kids through into the first team.’”
Ashington-born Bell, continued: “I already had a group of lads and just added a few more to form the squad for our first season in the Gateshead Apollo League.
“We went in totally blind as to what the league was like and how good our lads were going to be but from the first couple of training sessions I could tell there was something special.
“In our first game we went to Alnwick and won 13-0 and I thought then ‘it is something special’, and the boys never looked back as they won every game.
“Along the way, we had to cope with injuries and unavailability and for one match we even had to play a goalkeeper as a striker and he scored!
“Basically the lads gelled and the team spirit was fantastic and the football they played was a joy to watch.”
Now the U16s are destined for another new challenge as Bell explained: “We’re probably looking to join the Durham league.”