It has been a very busy few months behind the scenes at Birtley Town. The club has changed its Chairman and management committee with Paul Beat now leading the club as Chairman. This led to changes in the dugout. Paul Bryson and Paul Foster were appointed as joint managers in May 2022 and we have caught up with both before the new season kicks off.

Foster, who was assistant to Paul Beat last season, said “We are happy with the way pre-season has went in general and with bringing quite a few new players in it has been good to see them integrate with last season’s players. They have been finding their feet at a new club and adapted into the work ethic and what we are hoping to achieve.”

“The players we have brought in will certainly add experience and a lot of quality which we have been looking for to try and push on from what was achieved last season. We hope by bringing in a few players from higher divisions we have raised a few eyebrows and what we have also done is brought in a few local lads from Birtley.”

Paul Bryson rejoins the club after winning promotion with Consett AFC from division one last season. Excited for the new campaign he said “The signings we have made alongside the players we have retained will hopefully help us reach our goals. The lads we have signed all have Northern league experience, added into with Aidan Rutledge who was top scorer in the Wearside League last season.”

The Hoops have had a difficult run of friendly fixtures having lost to Whitley Bay, Consett AFC, North Shields and Dunston UTS. Foster added “The games we have  played had the sole purpose of testing ourselves against higher opposition and we have certainly learnt a lot. Scorelines can somewhat look harsh, however we have certainly competed in each game against very good sides. The one downside was obviously the Consett game but with as many bodies away as we had that day it was always going to be a tough ask. If you don’t look to bring in hard friendlies then sometimes things can look all rosy in the garden and having been around quite a bit, this isn’t always the case. We would like to thank all of the clubs we have played and wish them all the very best for the upcoming season.”

Bryson agreed “The pre-season and friendly games were designed to integrate new players with the existing squad. It’s been fantastic to get fitness levels right for the 30th July . To play the sides that we have was a brilliant challenge for the players, it shows how far this club has come to attract this level of opposition.

“We as a management team are just looking for progress from last seasons campaign and finish as high as we possibly can. If we could break into the top 8-10 that will mean progress has been made. We believe that this is the strongest second division for quite a few years and anyone from ten sides will be scrapping for those coveted top five spots. If we can be in and around the mix then it means we have set out what we hoped to achieve. Brysa agreed “The second division is a tough league to get out of but with the introduction of the playoffs, it gives you a better chance.”

Foss is Birtley through and through. He knows how important the town can be for the team this season. “I know we had some of the highest average attendances in the second division and the club continues to go from strength to strength off the field. It would be good to see the local people of Birtley continue to show their tremendous support even more so this season as there will be times when we will need that support even more than what we did last campaign. So lets look forward and hopefully we can do you all proud. It’s the start of a new era continuing on from the brilliant work Paul Beat and Andy Mallinson did over the last few seasons.” Bryson finished with “The club has made big progress on and off the field. We are looking forward to the challenge to help with these progressions.”

The Hoops begin their campaign with an away fixture at Brandon United on Saturday with a 3pm kick off.