Birtley go into this weekend’s away trip to Redcar knowing that 134 years of history is fully behind. The Hoops will play in step 5 of the football pyramid for the first time. Manager Paul Foster who has a long standing affiliation with the club as a player and now manager is excited for the season ahead:

“After 134 years we finally make our debut in Northern League Division One. We hope it will be another good season where we can establish ourselves and move the club forward again. Take nothing away from last season, which to be honest was better than anyone can ever have expected. We made a five year plan and it was ripped up in 12 months!”

“The work that people have done off the field over the last few years has been nothing short of incredible and to repay them in the way that we did was outstanding. The whole club was on its knees only six years ago. To look at where it is now will long go down in a lot of peoples memories. The day we went up was a pleasing way to repay the multitude of people, who there are far too many to name, but they know who they are and the value they bring to the club as a whole.”

“The promotion campaign is now in the memory collection and we can’t let all that good work go to waste. This will be a tougher task, we are in a league with some very big clubs. The top division of the Northern League has always been a very good standard and will be a step up from what was a very good second division last season. We have kept the majority of last seasons squad as in our eyes they are good enough to make the step up. It is up to them to prove they are good enough to make that step. We have also added a few additions in areas we felt needed strengthened.”

“All of the games in this division will be a learning curve and we go away to Redcar in our first away game of the season. A lot of people will have them as one of the favourites to finish in a top five position, with who they have signed and how they have proven themselves over the last couple of seasons. They have progressed unbelievably after getting promoted themselves only a couple of years ago. We are under no illusion of the size of the task we face on day one.”

“That’s what we want, to enjoy playing against the big teams, testing yourself as a team and as management and see how far it takes you.”

Foss was keen to pay thank you to the a number of people who helped the team last season.

Conor Grant kept his biggest save right until the final moments of the play-off penalty shootout.

“I would like to finish on a few thank yous in particular to the supporters who came in their droves last season home and away. Every game felt like being at home! We will need you even more this season when things aren’t going right for us. We know they will get behind the lads, the players will be giving everything for the cause, there is no doubt about that.”

“I want to thank the players that have moved on over the summer for various reasons. They were part of the journey last season. Joe Barwick and Connor Grant have decided that due to work and family commitments that the time was right to call it a day. Joe Barwick is a wonderful club man who gave his everything every time he played for the club over seven years. Connor Grant showed his experience throughout the campaign. What a way to go out, he kept his best moment for the last penalty in the final.”

“We couldn’t go without thanking the kid who scored 61 goals in Aidan Rutledge. Any team who loses a striker who scores that many goals at any level may think they will struggle however you have to move on and someone else will step up to the plate, that’s the way it works. We wish him the very best of luck at Gateshead, he’s a lovely kid who knows where the net is. We couldn’t be more happy for him having the chance that he has got.”