Gateshead FC dare to dream

15:53 07 November 2011

Gateshead are now attracting good crowds to their home matches at the International Stadium

Gateshead are now attracting good crowds to their home matches at the International Stadium

Newcastle United are not the only team whose impressive start to the season has raised football expectations on Tyneside. Roger Tames crosses the river to find out if a dream really can come true

There was a time when a club would have been flying in what used to be called the Third Divison, had they been higher in the league than Luton, York, Grimsby and Lincoln to name just a few.


In the comparatively recent world of promotion and relegation between all levels of football, the games new order sees Gateshead placed above these established football names, yet still outside the current
Football League.


Not by much though. Tynesides other full time professional football club ended the first quarter of the season leading the quaintly-named Blue Square Bet Premier League and within reach of righting a wrong that has gnawed away at the club for half a century.


It was in 1960 that after the 30 years of League status, the club was robbed of its place among the elite. Gateshead had slumped to third bottom and, under the system whereby finishing in the last four places meant the clubs had to apply for re-election, the Tynesiders were the only club voted out, enabling upstart Peterborough to bring a favourable geographic balance to the league.


The years that followed have been something of a football wilderness illuminated by the occasional false dawn until now. Led by former Newcastle midfielder Ian Bogie on the pitch, and ex-Sunderland director Graham Wood in the boardroom, Gateshead are now threatening to change the regions football map.


The Heed, as theyre colloquially known, have constantly struggled against conjoined twin problems a fine but inappropriate stadium and poor attendances. Gateshead International Stadium might have rocked in its time when Steve Cram was running, but as a football ground it can be a soulless home.


The fine start produced by Ian Bogies team though, has seen crowds swell to well beyond the 1,000 mark, a really encouraging figure by Gateshead standards, though hardly in the same bracket as promotion rivals Luton Town, with their 5,000-plus regular gate.


Off the pitch, progress has been made on raising the finance to build a new stadium at the former North Durham cricket club opposite the Civic Centre, though the economic climate has slowed the process of getting companies to commit to leasing office space in the multi-use complex.


Chairman Wood is still optimistic of Gateshead playing in their new ground Stadiumfor the start of the 2013-14 season, but will his hometown club be back in the League by then? Bogie is optimistic.


Its one of the hardest leagues to get out, the manager points out. So many teams are ex Football League and attracting crowds of 3,000 or 4,000. Youre all fighting for one automatic place and another through the play-offs. Weve come a long way in a short time but Im not a magician; to get back in the league is such a hard task.


The progress Bogie refers to has seen Gateshead rise from the Northern Premier League in 2008 and straight through the Conference North to the fifth tier of footballs pyramid. Now theyre enjoying a second season as a fulltime outfit.


Were extremely competitive, and were up there on merit. Wed like to stay there but to be honest, if we could finish in the top six, it would be a great achievement for a club like ours.


A dream that would totally change the regions football map is quietly and cautiously very much alive.

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