By Brian Bennett
Ashington FC defender James Harmison celebrated his 21st on Saturday as the Colliers knocked Sunderland Ryhope CW out of the Emirates FA Cup at Woodhorn Lane.
Whilst his brother Ben took the plaudits by scoring the only goal of the game which sent the Wansbeck side through to the preliminary round and an away tie against Sunderland RCA on Saturday August 19, James was equally all smiles after reaching a significant milestone as he kicked off his 21st consecutive season at Northern League level. And the 36 year old Ashington-born lynchpin, is determined to prolong his non league footballing career: “I’m enjoying it and still feel fit,” he said, “I’ve trained hard during the close season at Ben [Harmison’s] gym and I’ll keep playing especially when my brother Steve is joint manager.” Harmison began his senior career with Ashington at the former Portland Park ground, following in the footsteps of his dad Jimmy and brother Steve who also played for the Colliers. He made the switch to Bedlington the season after the Terriers had suffered heartache in the 1999 FA Carlsberg Vase final at Wembley, losing to a late goal against Tiverton Town. There he became a long serving and established member of the squad winning three Northern League championships in consecutive years under the highly successful management duo of Keith Perry and Tony Lowery. When Steve Harmison was appointed manager at Ashington two and a half years ago, James was his first signing. James was at the heart of the defence on Saturday against Ryhope CW and said afterwards: “Last year we lost the first two or three games including our FA Cup clash at home to Nelson and weren’t at the races. Our captain Craig Scott was spot on when he said we needed to get off to a good start and although our pre season hasn’t been the best, we have picked up a deserved win today. With Ryhope playing long throws and long balls into our box, it was food and drink for Craig and myself whilst Ben Harmison came back to help us out and won a lot of headers. We had to put our bodies on the line during the last 20 minutes yet with a bit more composure, we could have won by more. We have got a good strong team and everyone is fighting for places. It’s a great start today and momentum carries you a long way - but we need to keep it going.” He continued: “I thought Jay Hornsby was outstanding and Callum Johnston was excellent for two young lads making their debuts and although the overall performance today could have been better, that will come in time. If we can keep Craig Scott fit we will be solid at the back - but we need to kick on and have belief.”