As Harrogate Town’s players reported back for pre-season training on Monday, the club’s newest addition Ben Middleton says he is “excited” by the challenge of trying to secure an immediate return to National League football.
Middleton made 40 appearances for North Ferriby United last season in the division above that which his new team currently ply their trade, but says he is determined to do his bit to help Simon Weaver’s men achieve promotion from National League North in 2017/18.
“I’m looking forward to getting going. The ambition of Harrogate Town and where they want to be is exciting and is the reason I came here,” he said.
“The experience of playing in the National League was my best in football so far and obviously I want to get back to that level with this club.
“I’m the same as pretty much any footballer, I just want to play at the highest standard that I can and having had a taste last season, I want more.
“It’s a big step-up from National League North and it’s a really tough division, but I certainly grew as both a player and a person because of the experience.”
The 2017/18 campaign is Town’s first as a professional club in their 103-year history and the switch to full-time status was another big factor in Middleton’s decision to sign for Weaver.
“It was perfect timing for me personally,” the 22-year-old added.
“I’ve just finished university so I was looking for a fully professional club.
“Once I knew of the interest of a club with a set-up like Harrogate Town I couldn’t turn it down.”
Middleton was released by York City in 2013 and spent two seasons with Evo-Stik Division One North outfit Scarborough Athletic before moving to North Ferriby in 2015.
And it was his spell as a Seadog that he believes has made him the player he is today.
“My two seasons with Scarborough were when I grew the most as a player,” Middleton continued.
“I’d come out of playing academy football with York and into such a physically demanding league where you’re getting kicked all over the place every single week.
“It was a real eye-opener, but it was so important in terms of my development. Playing for Scarborough in the Evo-Stik really shaped my playing style.
“For a centre-half, I’m not the tallest and I’m not the quickest, but I love a tackle and I’m willing to get stuck in. I’m a body-on-the-line defender.
“The manager told me that these qualities are the reason he wanted to bring me to Harrogate, so this style of play is that the supporters can expect from me out on the pitch.”
Town’s first pre-season fixture will see them tackle Leeds United in a behind closed doors friendly at the Championship side’s Thorp Arch training ground, 3pm kick-off on Wednesday.