WHITBY Town will kick off the new Evo-Stik League season on Regatta Saturday (13 Aug) with a long trip to the West Midlands to take on Chasetown.
In the corresponding game last season, Kev Burgess’ bicycle kick gave Whitby a 1-1 draw.
Bradford Park Avenue are the first home opposition the following Wednesday (17 Aug), with Mickleover Sports in town on Saturday 20 August.
Fans will have to wait until Saturday 12 November to see title favourites Chester at the Turnbull Ground, while fellow giants FC United of Manchester visit early next year on 4 February - also a Saturday.
North Ferriby United are at the Turnbull on Boxing Day and host the Blues on Easter Monday. The campaign concludes on Saturday 21 April at picturesque Derbyshire dales outpost Buxton.
This Saturday (16 July), the top two teams in Whitby meet at the Turnbull Ground when Whitby take on Teesside League Fishburn Park in what has been described as a “low-key, warm-up” contest.
Despite the two clubs existing side by side for half a century, their only competitive clash came in the 2004-05 North Riding Senior Cup. On that day, stubborn Park forced a penalty shoot-out, after a defence, which included future Town player Andy Raw, kept Dave Logan’s Blues out for 120 minutes.
Whitby edged through 4-3 in sudden death after a match that made a nonsense of the five-league gap between the sides.
Mike Young, Alan Price and Mike Hall turned out for the two clubs in recent times, but probably the most successful player to represent both, was striker Graham Robinson, who starred in the Seasiders’ double-winning season of 1996-97. Robinson is now Football Development Officer at Sunderland FC charity, the SAFC Foundation.
Town manager Tommy Cassidy believes it’s a big opportunity for what’s likely to be a young Blues side.
He told the Whitby Gazette, said: “It’s very important for some of the young lads that are going to take part that they impress.
“There’s two or three young lads who’ll be playing their first game for us.”
The Blues will have trained four times in seven days, including a session on Marske beach last Saturday and the former Northern Ireland midfielder says his players have worked hard.
He added: “Everyone will be given a chance over the next four weeks, to show what they can do.
“Some won’t make it, hopefully some will, but time will tell.
“After Tuesday (when Town visit Pickering), I think I’ll have a much better idea.”
Runaway players of the season, centre-half duo Ibby Hassan and Kev Burgess, as well as forward Ash Davis, are just back or expected back, from holiday.
Cassidy says the trio “might get a run out if they’re back in time, just as a fitness thing.”
The Blues boss is also determined to improve on last season’s meagre friendly programme that yielded just three games after hot weather damaged the Turnbull pitch, stating: “Pre-season is all about getting people fit and getting things together so at three o’ clock on the 13th of August we’re raring to go.”
Regulars Ash Lyth, Dave McTiernan and former Middlesbrough marksman Andy Campbell will feature, though Chris Batchelor will miss out after picking up an injury playing cricket for Great Ayton.
Meanwhile Cassidy admitted he was struggling to compete for players with other local clubs, including Spennymoor and Blyth Spartans. He highlighted Northern-Leaguers Shildon as offering “exorbitant” amounts of money.
* Full Whitby Town league fixtures in Tuesday’s Gazette.