By Alex Narey
At the start of the season, Gateshead were my favourites to go down in the National League.
And let’s be clear, I didn’t just think they would go down, I would have placed good money – if I had good money to spare – on them going down with little more than a whimper.
Put up for sale last April by former owners Richard and Julie Bennett, the Heed was presented as a fantastic opportunity for a new investor. Debt free and with an aspirational young manager in Steve Watson, it seemed everything was in place – on and off the pitch – to mount a serious challenge.
But after a deal fell through to sell the club to an overseas consortium in May, the decision was taken to switch to a part-time model with budget cuts a necessity.
Hong Kong businessman Ranjan Varghese was waiting in the wings, but a transfer embargo was placed on the club by the National League back in September as they requested further financial information and despite a ‘positive meeting’ between the current ownership and the league this week, a revised budget plan must be presented to the ‘suits’ before it can be lifted. Questions, it seems, are never far away.
The story on our front page last weekend reveals a tempestuous relationship between the club’s fans and the board – despite reassurances from the latter.
Chaos off the pitch all points to chaos on it, but nothing could be further from the truth: Gateshead have been the surprise package of the season, even more so than Solihull Moors who have risen from the depths of their own relegation dogfight last term to mount a serious title challenge.
But they have done so spending money, while Gateshead are down to the bare bones, not even able to take a full squad of senior players to Aldershot on Saturday, where they won 2-0.
It makes their push for a play-off spot all the more remarkable, and while it doesn’t say much about my ability to predict who’s up for relegation, it does show that on the pitch at least, the interests of the fans who love and care for the club so dearly, remain in very safe hands.
Gateshead owner Ranjan Varghese has called on local fans to get behind the club, saying they need gates of 2k and above to help them become sustainable.
Fanciful thinking maybe. But there is an air of frustration from the outside looking in; this is a die-hard area of football devotion. The progress Gateshead are making on the pitch needs to be recognised more. It’s a sleeping giant waiting to be woken up, so go and make some noise!!
Tagged Gateshead FC