Coming through the ranks himself, Alnwick Town manager Paul Yeadon knows all about big-game days at St James’ Park. Now he’s passing that experience down to the next generation ahead of this Saturday’s FA Vase match.
Relegated from the Northern League Division Two last season, Alnwick have started the new campaign brightly and, last weekend’s result against Whitley Bay A withstanding, presently hold a top-six spot in the Bay Plastics Northern Alliance Premier Division.
Victories over North Shields Athletic, Gateshead A and Gateshead Rutherford, as well as Saturday’s draw at Newcastle Chemfica, coupled with an impressive goal-scoring start to the new campaign from Brad McClelland, mean that Yeadon is optimistic, despite several absentees, ahead of the visit of NW Counties outfit, Charnock Richard.
“I’m hoping for a big turn-out on Saturday and want the locals to get behind the side as we want this journey to be together,” said Paul.
“What people do need to understand is that this is the beginning of a long journey and things aren’t going to happen overnight.
“This is just the start of a three-to-four-season plan and whatever happens, happens, and after is a bonus.”
Club captain Jake Lowes will be missing due to holiday commitments, as is defender Joe Pickard, while there is a doubt on striker Scott Maddison but for Yeadon it’s a chance for others to shine, while Lowes is hoping top-scorer Brad McClelland fires the goals that give him a chance of another Vase game upon his return.
“I’ve only been given the captaincy this season and it’s an honour,” said Jake.
“Nothing really clicked last season until very late on and this is a fresh start with a young group of players and I’m hoping the lads will go and pull it out of the bag, get the win and move on to the next one.
“It would be nice to get a bit of run going as it would be great for the club and the people of Alnwick as well.”
McClelland, who has seven goals this season (prior to the Bay game), returned in the summer following Yeadon’s appointment and is one of several to come through the ranks.
Having initially left for a spell at Ashington, and a couple of short spells in the local leagues, he’s aware there’ll be an underdogs tag on Town for any Vase run, but one they’d relish.
“We had a good run a few years back (Town reached the Second Round proper in 2015) and we know we’ll be underdogs for however long we stay in the competition, but we do want to win them all,” continued Brad.
“There’s some good players here and, with a full selection, we can do well. For me though, I’d be happy to get on the scoresheet and whatever happens, happens.”
Optimistic best describes Yeadon though, and the loss of a few players only serves to give others an opportunity to shine.
Charnock Richard, and their attacking prowess, will pose a threat but Yeadon hopes that, with the support of the Town as a whole, his players will be more than ready for the job at hand.
“I’ve looked at them since the draw, watched them a few times, and they’ve got plenty of strengths so I’m hoping I can get the lads on the training field to work on a few things,” Yeadon admits.
“We have a young squad but they’re capable of getting results and that gives us a chance.
“This is certainly one of the biggest games we’ll have and is a great opportunity to play in a national competition.
“I’ve played in the Vase before and, to be honest, you don’t realise how big it is until afterwards so I’m trying to give local lads a chance but I’d like to have a good run in the Vase and anything can happen on the day.”
Alnwick host Charnock Richard on Saturday in the FA Vase EPR, KO is 3pm.