By Mark Carruthers, The Sunday Sun
North Shields manager Marc Nash has hailed the progression of West Allotment Celtic as the two sides prepare to meet on the opening day of the Northern League season.
Allotment will mark their return to Division One after a four-year absence next Saturday when they make the short trip across North Tyneside to face the Robins.
The fixture provides an intriguing challenge for both sides as the visitors get an immediate test of their credentials on their return to the top tier.
It also hands Nash a chance to see how his players are prepared for a season where they are expected to challenge for honours throughout the coming months.
The Robins boss admitted that they have been handed a “tough” opening game – and praised their opponents for securing their place being in Division One after two years after impressive results.
He told The Sunday Sun: “It’s great to see them back in Division One and it’s great to see them back at West Allotment as well.
“They might get a bit more of a fan base being closer to home, which will be fantastic for them.
“It’s another North Tyneside derby and they have done really well to get back in Division One.
“They are used to winning games, they have that mentality over the last two years and it’s a very tough opening fixture for us.”
North Shields head into the season rated as one of the favourites to claim the Division One title and promotion into the Northern Premier League East Division.
That promotion was almost secured earlier this year when the Robins narrowly missed out on becoming one of the three sides selected for a place in step four as part of the Football Association’s restructure of the non-league pyramid.
Nash is relishing the pressure of expectation at the Daren Persson Stadium and insisted that his squad are fully prepared for the challenges that lie in wait for them.
“I said after our Vase defeat at Hebburn last season that I felt we were ready to compete and that has not changed.
“We have the squad capable of coping with injuries, suspensions and Covid issues.
“It’s a nice tag to have, you are there to be shot at, but that is something the players and the coaches have to deal with.”