By Glen Robertson
New Newton Aycliffe skipper John Close has warned the Northern League that his side will carry a much greater threat this season.
Close was handed the armband following the departure of Sean Tarling to Bishop Auckland in the summer, on the back of a campaign that saw the Royal Blues narrowly avoid relegation into Division Two.
But after a pre-season that saw the Newtonians remaining unbeaten while scoring goals for fun, the centre-back believes the upcoming campaign will bring greater rewards to Moore Lane Park.
“We look much more of a threat this year,” he said. “We know Danny Earl will get us goals and (new signing) Jamie Owens will score as well.
“Dan Mellanby is in great form, too, and getting him back fully-fit could be our best signing.
“There’s Fred (Woodhouse) and (Martin) Youngy a threat from midfield, and (Christian) Selby.
“Then you have Paul Broom and Danny Lambert who can get goals from out wide and Stewy Owen will pop up with a couple.”
Close has got in on the action himself – scoring the winner in the club’s final pre-season affair against Consett on Saturday – and he is hoping he can add a goal when it matters during the season.
“I’ll hopefully do better than last season,” he said on a campaign he failed to find the net. “I think it was the first year I hadn’t scored a goal so I’ll look to try to change that.”
And does he think fellow defenders Stephen Gibson and James Oliver could also break their long, barren spells in front of goal?
He laughed: “No chance! I don’t think Gibbo and James will ever score for the club again.”
A key component at all levels of football is team spirit. With the loss of Tarling, as well as Darren Craddock and Scott Pocklington, questions could arise over the affect it has had on the dressing room.
But the skipper is in little doubt that the environment at the club is anything other than healthy.
“We have lost three very good players and influential people in the dressing room. But Allan has done well with the players he has brought in to replace them,” he said.
“The new signings have fitted in well. They’re a pretty honest bunch of lads, there’s a mixed bag of personalities but it’s a nice group.
“Everyone is serious about their football, but all join in with other events – what I’d term the ‘extra-curriculum events’ – such as the barbecue after the Frank Swinburne Memorial Day.
“We’re all determined to do well this season.”
Close will miss the club’s opening league fixture away at Penrith, but will lead the club out for the first time on Wednesday August 14 as Billingham Synthonia make the trip to Moore Lane Park.
Tickets will be priced £6 for adults, £4 for concessions, with under-12s free of charge.