Former Newcastle United boss Chris Hughton backs Mike Williamson to succeed at Gateshead
Former Newcastle United manager Chris Hughton has backed Mike Williamson to succeed in his first managerial role at Gateshead.
It was Hughton that brought the former Portsmouth defender to Tyneside back in January 2010 as the Magpies strengthened their squad to secure an immediate promotion back to the Premier League.
The centre-back went on to make 16 appearances as United ended the season 11 points clear of their closest rivals West Brom and returned to the top-flight less than 12 months after a devastating relegation.
Promotion gave Williamson a chance to make his first ever appearance in the Premier League and he did so when Hughton named him alongside Fabricio Coloccini in a 3-0 defeat at Manchester United in the opening game of the campaign.
Hughton left United in December 2010 with the Magpies safely in mid-table, but his former defender would go on to make over 150 appearances and represent the club in Europe before moving on to Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2015.
Williamson returned to Tyneside last summer as former Magpies star Steve Watson made him a key part of an inexperienced Gateshead squad and he helped the club defy the odds to finish in mid-table in the National League.
The 35-year-old moved into a player-coach role working under Ben Clark when Watson departed for York City in January and he now succeeds the Heed legend in the main role.
Williamson’s appointment as Gateshead player-manager means that he becomes the third member of Hughton’s promotion-winning side to go into club management – as he follows in the footsteps of midfield duo Joey Barton and Kevin Nolan.
And his former manager believes that Williamson’s “work ethic and willingness to learn” will help him overcome the challenges he will face as he takes his first steps in management.
Hughton told the Gazette: “When Mike came into Newcastle, he played alongside two established centre-backs in Coloccini and Steven Taylor.
“It can’t have been easy coming into a club like Newcastle, because other players had come from so-called bigger clubs.
“He had come from a different background in football, but he quickly showed that he wanted to learn, and he trained fantastically well.
“He was inquisitive, he took interest in everything and showed a real desire to improve and establish himself within the squad.
“He grew in stature and, although he was quiet, he became a leader.
“I remember seeing an interview he gave after my time at the club and he was saying he felt he should be playing more.
“That raised a smile because it showed that he had grown in confidence and he believed he belonged at that level.
“It’s that work-ethic and willingness to improve that will help him succeed as a manager – because they are two of the many qualities he will need to succeed.”
Hughton knows the many challenges that becoming a manager can bring.
After a spell as caretaker manager at Spurs – and a similar role at Newcastle – he finally became a manager in his own right when he was rewarded for a positive start to the 2009/10 season by being handed the permanent managerial role at St James Park.
His departure from Tyneside in December 2010 was a surprise to many, but Hughton went on to manage Birmingham City, Norwich City and Brighton and Hove Albion.
He helped the latter into the Premier League for the first time in their history in 2018 – when they were pipped to the Championship title by Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle on a dramatic final day of the season.
He left the Seagulls in May and has been linked with a number of vacancies throughout the summer.
Hughton has experienced the highs and lows of life in the dugout over the last decade and he offered some invaluable advice to new Heed manager Williamson as he prepares to step up from experienced player into management.
“There isn’t one aspect of management that is more challenging than another – it’s all a big test,” explained Hughton.
“Man-management is more and more prominent these days and there will be big decisions to make – and ones that Mike hasn’t had to make as a player.
“The big thing I would tell him is not to put off anything until tomorrow that can be done today.
“You have to believe in yourself and believe that the decisions you are making will help you work towards the plan you have in place for the club.
“There will be big decisions for Mike and his team to make over the coming weeks and months, but he will have all of the experience he has from being a player to fall back on.
“He’s a great lad and I wish him all of the best in his new role.”
Williamson will get his managerial career underway next Wednesday when fellow former Newcastle United defender Jonathan Woodgate takes his Middlesbrough side to the International Stadium for a pre-season friendly.
Kick-off is at 7.30pm and tickets are priced at £8 adults, £5 concessions/students and £2 for those aged 12 to 16.
Under-12s go free if they are accompanied by a paying adult.
Williamson’s first competitive game in charge will come when Southport visit the International Stadium on the opening day of the National
League North season on Saturday, 3 August.