By Bob Wood
Newton Aycliffe’s success this season owes a great deal to goalkeeper James Winter.
The 30-year-old former Hartlepool youth team stopper has been outstanding for the Moore Lane team.
In a break from indoor training, Winter explained how his move to Aycliffe in 2014 had restarted his career.
After breaking a leg with Durham City he was contemplating retirement but was talked out of it by Peter Dixon and Gus Di Lella. Peter had just taken over as Aycliffe manager and was looking to strengthen his squad.
Now in his second year with Aycliffe, Winter is full of praise for the setup at the club who he says makes everyone feel welcome.
At 30, he is one of the older members of the squad. He feels there is a good mixture of mainly young players and this helps the atmosphere in the squad. The character in the dressing room is skipper Paul Garthwaite who is “always happy”. His infectious enthusiasm sometimes has the older players shaking their heads, but the spirit in the squad is excellent with the players often socialising together outside of football.
This season has seen Aycliffe have good runs in the FA Cup, they are still in the FA Vase and lie sixth in the EBAC Northern League Division One.
However, the great start to the season has been disrupted by an enforced weather break.
Winter feels that the hard fitness work insisted on by the management will pay dividends.
He says “fitness definitely told on Tuesday” when Aycliffe beat Atherton Collieries in the third round of the FA Vase.
Winter fully appreciates the hard work of the club’s committee members, especially kit man Geoff Hay.
“The players have huge respect for Geoff and all the work he does behind the scenes preparing for a game,” said Winter.
“There is a lot of banter but the players are grateful for his hard work.”
While some of the Aycliffe squad have previously played in FA Vase finals, this is the furthest Winter has been in the competition.
His dream, like the rest of the squad, is to take Newton Aycliffe to Wembley for the first time in its history.
He believes they have the team that can do it.
“On our day we can beat anyone at this level,” said inter. “The team is devastated when they lose and every player takes pride in their own performance.
“You shouldn’t play football if you don’t want to win.”
Winter says the passion to win at this club is one of the best he has experienced.
Aycliffe play their delayed 4th Round FA Vase tie at home to fellow EBAC Northern League team Marske United on Saturday (23rd January). Kick off is 3 pm, with admission £6 adults and £4 concessions and children under 16 years.
Aycliffe has only played one home game since the end of October. With no income coming through the gate the club is desperate for fans to return for next week’s cup game, and is asking fans to get behind their local club and push them through to the next round which would see them travel to Camberley in Surrey.