North Shields manager Marc Nash has urged his players to prove that they are ready for a return to competitive action.
The Robins discovered that they are to entertain FA Vase semi-finalists Consett on the opening day of the new Northern League season when the fixtures were released on Friday.
Their meeting with the Steelmen is just under two weeks away – four days after they get their competitive season underway with a tough-looking FA Cup extra preliminary round tie at Northern Premier League club Marske United.
That cup tie will come 178 days after North Shields last saw competitive action in 0-0 home draw against Ashington after the coronavirus epidemic curtailed last season.
As the return to competitive football draws ever closer, Nash stressed that players across the league may take their time to adjust to league and cup action after such a long absence.
It doesn’t feel right at the minute, I think it’s at the back of everyone’s mind, will things get back to normal? I still think there is an air of that around the club and around the league at the moment. We are two weeks away from the start of the season and we still can’t use our changing rooms. So, I think that impacts on the mentality of players and it’s not helping anyone.Marc Nash, Manager, North Shields FC
My main issue is that I am not sure the players think it’s for real yet. I don’t think they are in that preparing for a league season mode yet. Our last game was in early March and that’s probably the longest some of our lads have gone without a competitive game – even when they have had bad injuries. It may take teams a while to get going in the season, it could be 10 to 15 games before that happens. Your season could be over then – so we have to make sure that we are ready to get going.
The curtailment of last season could not have come at a worse time for Nash and his squad. North Shields were sat in fourth place in the Northern League Division One table and were eight points behind a Hebburn Town side that occupied the third and final promotion place.
However, the Robins held three games in hand over the FA Vase semi-finalists and still had to face Kevin Bolam’s side before the end of the campaign. With the new season just under a fortnight away, Nash warned his players that they should expect a new challenge of being expected to compete at the top end of the table.
We surprised a few last season, we did very well and we might be targeted this time around. Nobody expected us to be fourth with ten games to go after we had an inconsistent start. We lacked that consistency and then we went on a three-month unbeaten run. But we have lads that have points to prove and there is a lot of hunger there. It’s a new challenge, finishing fourth this year would be a massive achievement and we can’t have any complacency.
Nash and assistant manager Anthony Woodhouse have been hard at work adding to their squad over the last few months.
Striker Dan Wilson returned to the Daren Persson Stadium and the likes of former Blyth Spartans full-back Andrew Cartwright and Seaham Red Star duo Anth Myers and David Robinson have also joined the club.
Nash revealed that he is “really happy” with his options ahead of the season – although did concede that he will keep tabs on a number of trialists as he looks to add one more player to his ranks.
Silly season normally starts in March or April when it comes to signing players. But with the coronavirus hitting, silly season started even earlier this year. We were fortunate to get our business done fairly early and we are pretty well set for the season. We would like one more in and that’s why we have had trialists in pre-season and we will continue looking at them before making decisions. We are really happy with the squad and there is a lot of depth and quality in there. The lads will have to look at the long game, there will be a lot of games in a short space of time. Some lads may need to be patient.
North Shields will round off their pre-season schedule with visits to Division Two clubs Birtley Town and Heaton Stannington this week.