By Jeff Bowron
After a season of unrest on Tyneside there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for National League outfit Gateshead.
A deal has been agreed in principle for former Rochdale chairman Chris Dunphy to take control of the Heed.
Former Rochdale director Bill Goodwin will come in as Chief Executive.
Friday proved to be a pivotal day, two huge setbacks followed by a ray of hope for the second longest serving club in the fifth tier.
Firstly the players, who have battled magnificently against the odds this season, failed to receive their wages.
“Not being paid is a hard one to take after all we’ve been through,” said Heed captain Scott Barrow.
“It’s demoralising and the fans, players and staff deserve a lot better – but we’re not quitters and hopefully the situation will get resolved.”
Landlords Gateshead Council then evicted the club from their home of 45 years, the International Stadium.
Rent arrears forced the Council’s hand, though Gateshead will be able to stage their remaining four games – if they pay up front.
“This action follows a protracted period of negotiation with the current owner to settle outstanding debt,” said a Council spokesman.
“To be clear, the issue is with the company, not the club. Gateshead Council is along-time supporter of the club.”
Gateshead’s squad, now down to just 16 professionals, will not have access to the training ground or gym at the stadium.
Gateshead’s financial problems have been exacerbated this month with only one home game causing cash-flow difficulties.
The other four have been away from the North East, three of them long haul trips to the south although four of the Heed’s remaining six games are on home soil.
With an absent owner in Dr Ranjan Varghese, controversial Italian Joseph Cala has been in charge of negotiations.
Cala had been hoping to sell the club for £75,000 but has accepted a deal to part company for the originally set £1 fee.
“The ball is now in their court now,” said Cala. “I told them that they can take over now as I’m happy to leave.
“We need to allow them to do the appropriate due diligence.
“They will have their lawyers come in and if they are happy, they will take over.”
Supporters association Gateshead Soul have been part of the vetting process and will hold protests if the deal is blocked.
“We have informed the current owners that any disruption in the sale process would lead to the resumption of the protests previously planned,” they said.
“We are ready to protest and will double in number if there is any delay in what looks like a perfect situation with Chris Dunphy showing an interest.
“This would happen outside the International Stadium after the Ebbsfleet game on April 6th.
“The job is far from done and the celebrations do not start until the ink is dry on the contracts.”
Gateshead’s debt is believed to be in the region of £120,000 and there are fears that a recent HMRC winding-up order has not been settled.
A Bond of £200,000 lodged with the league at the start of the season is gathering interest – but untouched.
“We need to establish the actual level of debt,” said Dunphy, “But we’d like to get the takeover completed in seven days if possible.
“I had a long time at Rochdale and my experience is in the Football League – and that’s where I want to take Gateshead.”
Dunphy has a 26% stake in Rochdale, something he will have to relinquish in over to take control at Gateshead.
“That won’t be a problem,” he added. “I’ll sell my shares and my focus now is to build a bright future at Gateshead.
“All the ingredients are there for Gateshead to be a success and we’ll be in it for the long haul.”
By Jeff Bowron