Ryhope ready for big new challenge

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RYHOPE CW break new ground tomorrow when they play in the Northern League for the first time in their history.

Formed more than a century ago, the Wearsiders took the decision to apply for a move up the pyramid after clinching the Wearside League championship in successive seasons.

And manager Martin Swales is looking forward to what he describes as a “massive challenge”.

“We’ve been very successful during the last three seasons,” said Swales, whose side visit relegated Stokesley SC tomorrow.

“Not only did we win the title twice but in both of the seasons we also won the three domestic cup competitions.

“It’s now a whole new ball game, but we are all set to go.”

Several newcomers have been brought in despite the fact that all of last season’s squad were retained.

Newcomers include Chris Winn (Prudhoe), Michael Charlton (Ashbrooke Belford House), Chris Rookes (Chester-le-Street), Richie Playforth and Brad Thompson (Redcar Athletic) together with Ross Galley and Stephen Moody from local football.

James Bamburgh and James Cook, who played at under-18 level last season, have also stepped up.

The one disappointment is the news that Dean Arkley could be out for two months after picking up an injury in pre-season.

Horden CW, who ended second bottom of Division Two last season, have also been busy on the transfer front and several players could make their debuts at Morpeth Town.

Michael Watson has moved in from Easington Colliery with Tom Wilkie (Norton) and Michael Heckles (Brandon United), Chris Stoker (Sunderland RCA youth) being joined by Josh Anderson, Russell Blenkinsopp, Paul Johnson, Martin O’Riordan, Taylor Hughes and Jamie Sanlon.

New-look Seaham Red Star open their programme with a visit from West Allotment Celtic and have a full-strength squad to choose from, with Michael McEwan returning.

Chester-le-Street have virtually a new squad, which chairman Joe Burlison claims will take time to gel.

The Cestrians – disappointed by their midweek FA Cup exit –make the long journey to Whitehaven minus Keiron McDonald, but Mark Nixon could play a part.

Birtley Town, delighted at defeating North Shields in Tuesday’s FA Cup replay, take on Esh Winning without injured pair James Olsen and Danny Hepplewhite.

Assistant manger Barry Fleming hailed the cup performance, saying “There was a great turnout and I thought the lads were outstanding.

“We went close to claiming promotion last season and our aim is to go all the way this time.”