Northumbria University men’s football head into tomorrow’s FA Cup tie at Padiham confident that a positive pre-season can reap instant rewards.
Head of football Colin Stromsoy has lost several senior members of the squad that narrowly missed out on promotion to the Northern League’s first division.
However, a talented group featuring a record number of student athletes returned from a training camp in the French Alps full of running.
And last weekend’s impressive 3-1 friendly win at North Shields underlined the potential within a squad that will once again juggle national league competition – as Team Northumbria - with BUCS Premier League football.
“I was really pleased with our fitness last Saturday and we improved tactically after a disappointing defeat to Newcastle Benfield,” said Stromsoy.
“North Shields are a very strong side but they didn’t really have a sniff after half-time and we scored some good goals.
“I was hoping to squeeze in one final friendly in midweek before the cup tie at Padiham but it was cancelled at the last minute.
“Nevertheless we are excited about playing in the FA Cup again and our record on the road in knockout football was excellent last season.”
Stromsoy has named goalkeeper Steven Mundy as his new captain and has signed former Morpeth striker Dan Taggart to bolster TN’s forward line.
However, versatile former Newcastle United trainee Louis Storey has signed for South Shields, Matty Tumilty has moved to Byth Town and Luke Hannant has been snapped up by Gateshead after impressing on trial at the International Stadium.
“I’m delighted for Luke,” added Stromsoy. “He’s been a fantastic player for Northumbria and come through the trials as a first year to establish himself as a fixture in the Northern League side.
“He deserves his chance at Gateshead and that’s what we’re trying to do here – develop young players on and off the field and prepare them for a crack at a higher level.
“That’s why lads like Dan are looking at Northumbria as an option. He’s a little bit older, knows his way around the Northern League but wants to add a university education to his football.
“We are very proud of what we can offer at Northumbria – we have an incredibly professional set-up from the facilities to the support staff and the academic options.”
That level of professionalism shone through during last month’s trip to the French alpine resort of Tignes – the second successive year Northumbria’s footballers have benefitted from some of Europe’s best high altitude training facilities.
“We were training alongside the French and English Rugby Union squads as they prepared for the Olympic Sevens competition,” added Stromsoy.
“Tignes is a seriously impressive training centre and we made the most of our time out there.
“Last season we got off to a flier thanks to the time we spent in France and this time we were able to assess every individual player ahead of what will be another energy-sapping campaign.”
TN face two games in three days with the visit of Bedlington Terriers on Monday and Stromsoy added: “We could have had an easier start!
“But I’m very excited about the talent within this squad with first year students stepping up in their second year and looking to seize their chance.”