BY his own admission, Neil Winskill has left Ashington CFC with a heavy heart after making one of the toughest decisions of his life.
He was in his seventh year as Gary Middleton’s right hand man, the duo enjoying three seasons at West Allotment Celtic before moving along to Woodhorn Lane after the end of the 2008-09 season.
Wallsend born Winskill, 34, whose full-time occupation is with the Newcastle United Foundation had been offered the post of head coach with Newcastle Academy Under-15s – but deliberately kept the news under wraps with Middleton out of action through illness.
“I was offered the position of under-15s head coach at the academy about two weeks ago now, which unfortunately coincided with Gary’s illness – so I carried on without saying anything until Gary was back,” he said.
“Other than Joe Joyce, who is the academy manager and myself, nobody knew about it.
“I spoke to Gary last Sunday just to let him know that I had been offered the position – and I accepted after speaking to Gary first.
“It’s an opportunity for an aspiring coach which I don’t think I could have turned down and it’s with a heavy heart really that I leave Ashington.
“It’s probably one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make, to be honest.”
Winskill, a UEFA ‘A’ licensed coach, added: “It was going to be impossible to do everything.
“I work as the football development manager at the Newcastle United Foundation during the day, which is my full-time job, and as my boss has just gone on maternity leave, I’m acting up in her absence.
“So that is a bit of a step up in itself.
“The academy job is additional. I always try to do things properly and give 100 per cent and I didn’t want to spread myself thin – so unfortunately the assistant manager’s job at Ashington was the one I had to relinquish.”
Winskill, who lives in Forest Hall, was in the dugout and technical area as Ashington clinched a 6-2 victory over Durham City on Saturday.
He added: “I asked Gary during the week what his thoughts were, and not being 100 per cent himself, he said that he would like me to come today as normal to help out.
“However, now that the news is out in the open, I feel it’s right that I go and make way for whoever Gary wants to brings in – it’s probably right for Gary, the players and for the club – but it is certainly not easy for me to walk away.
“I’ve loved it here and I need to put on record my thanks to Gary.
“I marked him on numerous occasions when I played for Newcastle Blue Star when he was playing for Bedlington, so I didn’t know Gary that well before he asked me to go and work with him at West Allotment Celtic.
“From thereon in, I’ve got a friend now that is a lifelong friend.
“I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve particularly enjoyed being at Ashington and I’ve had the opportunity to work with some smashing people on the executive board and with some great players at this level and I’m a better person and a better coach for having done it.
“I’ve got that experience now and I’m grateful to Ashington CFC.
“I’d also like to thank the fans who are relentless with their fantastic support.”
Middleton said: “Neil has taken the opportunity on – he’s been offered a good exciting post within the academy which he didn’t want to turn down, and you can understand that.
“From a personal point of view, this is my seventh year working with him and it was a bitter blow to me.
“However, I was pleased for Neil but disappointed that our partnership has been split up – but these things happen.
“Ashington CFC will still be here in years to come and we have advertised for a replacement and we will find out who we feel is right to come in.
“We wish Neil all the luck and all the best in his new role but he will remain in touch and come up to see us and I’ll still be bouncing things off him.”