Counting down to kick-off

Bridlington Town will try to get revenge on Whitley Bay for last season's FA Vase defeat when they meet in the FA Cup
Bridlington Town will try to get revenge on Whitley Bay for last season's FA Vase defeat when they meet in the FA Cup

BRIDLINGTON Town manager Mitch Cook has vowed that his team will be ready for the start of the league season in three weeks time, despite not knowing who they will face on the opening day.

The Seasiders begin their series of pre-season friendlies on Saturday, when Sheffield FC visit Queensgate, but delays at the NCEL mean the league fixture list has not yet been released.

“It’s ridiculous to be starting at this level on August 4,” said Cook. “Certain players can only take holidays at that time of year. It is two weeks before the professionals start and it is utter madness but we have to get on with it.”

They may not know where the league campaign will begin, but Town do know who they will face in the FA Cup and FA Vase, and it couldn’t be much tougher.

The FA Cup extra preliminary round sees Whitley Bay, who beat Bridlington 5-1 in last season’s Vase, travel to East Yorkshire on August 11.

In the FA Vase first round, Town welcome Spennymoor Town on October 13, with the winners at home to Bedington Terriers or Morpeth Town.

Cook said: “In cup games you always want to be at home, and all three draws have given us that.

“But because of the way the draws are regionalised, you always want to avoid Northern League teams even though you know there is a good chance you are going to get one.

“It’s the strongest league at our level but I feel we will have a good chance in both competitions.

“I know we are playing teams whose budgets could be seven or eight times what ours is, but there is nothing we can do about that.

“We know what to expect and they are the ones who will have to make a three-hour trip before the game.”

The Seasiders’ squad for the new season will be without at least five of the players who helped the team to second in the NCEL last season.

James Bennett and Robbie Hawkes are signing for Scarborough Athletic, Danny Brunton is also moving on, while Ash Allanson and Frank Belt are overseas until September and October.

“We have started training and the players look sharp, we are looking OK. It is important that everybody is ready by August 4.”“We’ve got people coming in and we will let everybody know who they are when they sign on the line.

“We are in the process of speaking to new players but some have offers from here, there and everywhere.

“I’m not bothered what anyone says, certain teams can have 30-odd players signed but they can still only play 11 on August 4.

“We’ll have some new faces to have a look at in the friendlies and we’ll try a few of the younger lads. But it is my job to make sure we have a team capable of doing as well as we did last season when the league begins.”

Sheffield FC will provide a good test for the Seasiders on Saturday, with Cook keen for his players to play matches in the build-up rather than go through too many training sessions.

“We have planned a good set of friendlies, a good mix which will benefit us.

“We have had a couple of training sessions to sharpen the lads up, but now they just want to play matches.”

Sheffield are managed by former professional footballer-turned boxer Curtis Woodhouse, who played for Bridlington Rangers as a junior.