Professionalism is the way forward for Northern League Washington under boss James Clark

Manager James Clark and assistant Michael Laws.
Manager James Clark and assistant Michael Laws.
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An injection of youth, professionalism and ambition has Washington heading in the right direction - that’s the view of club boss James Clark.

The club welcome Dunston UTS to the Nissan Sports & Leisure Complex on Saturday in the FA Cup in their first competitive game ahead of their Northern League campaign.

We’ve managed to bring in a lot of quality on one of the lowest budgets in the league

And Clark is hopeful that this season will prove a lot more positive than the last, with Washington battling against the drop right until the final weeks of 2016/17.

“We have had to build this squad from the bottom up. With that comes its own pressures but we are pleased to have brought together a talented squad who really buy into what we are trying to do here,” said the manager, whose side came close to pulling out of the Northern League altogether in the summer, but for a link-up with junior football club Washington AFC.

“There has been a massive turnaround since I came in a year ago. Just two players remain from the squad we inherited.

“We’ve managed to bring in a lot of quality, on probably one of the lowest budgets in the league.

“A lot of the players are young and have had a taste of what it is like at a professional club. With that comes a professionalism.

“They all train and play like professionals. They know exactly what is required on the pitch, in training and off it, too.”

With the real ball coming out this weekend, Clark is keen to see the town get behind its local club, especially given recent struggles off the field.

While the best supported club at this level last season were Julio Arca’s South Shields, who pulled in an average home crowd of 1,250, Washington’s was just 78.

Clark continued: “As a manager it was hard to keep a lid on things when we were fighting against relegation but I always told the players to concentrate on their jobs on the field while I deal with things off it.

“Still, it was not easy because you had players wondering if they would have club to play for next season. Some boys became men last season.

“With all that in mind and the developments over the summer it would be good to see the town support the club.

“Just a few more people through the gates could make a massive difference. With the town’s backing, who knows where we could end up?”

Tickets are priced at £6, £3 concessions, £1 for U16s.