GATESHEAD FC are a club on the up this season. Sports Writer RYAN WARNOCK takes a look at when South Shields came to their rescue, and speaks to Phil Turnbull, a Sandancer plying his trade for the Tynesiders.
GATESHEAD FC could soon be set to return to the football league after a 54-year absence, although the history of the club may be something that surprises many.
Originally formed in 1930, Gateshead is actually the result of not one relocation by South Shields FC, but TWO.
While South Shields FC find themselves without a home in the town, having moved to Peterlee at the beginning of this season, Gateshead, who sit fourth in the Conference Premier, are aiming for promotion back to the Football League for the first time since they failed to be re-elected back to the old Fourth Division in 1960,
South Shields-born midfielder Phil Turnbull, is confident that the current side can help bring an end to that 54-year wait.
He said: “At the beginning of the season I didn’t expect us to be where we are now, especially after we had a very difficult season last time around. Going into pre-season, I think survival would have been our key objective, but things changed massively when the new gaffer (Gary Mills) came in.
“He’s brought new players in that have took us to the next level, and now that we are up there and amongst it, I definitely fancy us.
“The way we play football, and keep the ball means that teams are finding it difficult to hurt us at the moment.”
Gateshead’s current good fortune is in stark contrast to its history, where the town twice found itself without a local club, and had to rely on the relocation of South Shields FC to provide it with one.
The first of these moves came in 1930, when South Shields FC, who at the time where plying their trade in the lofty heights of the Football League’s old Third Division North, ran into financial difficulties, and made the bold decision to up sticks and move home in search of more support, with them opting for Gateshead as their new base.
Thirty years of football league followed for the Tynesiders, until they were dealt a huge body blow in 1960 when they failed to gain re-election back to the Football League after finishing in the bottom four of the old Fourth Division.
Incredibly in 1974 though, lightning struck twice and South Shields, then members of the Northern Premier League, sold their Simonside headquarters and moved to a new home at Gateshead International Stadium.
Despite notable FA Cup victories over Grimsby Town and Crewe Alexandra, the club only lasted three seasons before it was replaced in 1977 by the one that still stands today.
After years in the non-league wilderness, the takeover by former Sunderland chairman Graham Wood in 2008 seemed to breathe new life into the club, and they soon started to climb the non-league ladder.
Thanks to the millions of their Gateshead born-chairman, and the good work of former manager Ian Bogie, the club gained successive promotions up to the Conference Premier for the 2009/10 season.
After years of steady building in the Conference Premier, chairman Wood made the decision to appoint former York manager Gary Mills in September 2013, a move that midfielder Turnbull believes has ‘transformed the place’.
He said: “I couldn’t speak highly enough of him (Mills). He’s been unbelievable. He’s just came in and totally transformed the place.
“We’ve had success in the past under Ian Bogie, but he’s took us on to a different level.
“It’s not just the football, but general stuff he does, like days out to bring the team together.
“For example, last Friday instead of training he took us ten-pin bowling. Things like that just lead to a positive vibe around the place.”
Despite recent success, Gateshead have still often found themselves in the shadows of the two big North-East clubs, although Turnbull, who is in his second spell at the club, is hopeful that the side’s current success can help change that.
He said: “Both Sunderland and Newcastle have tended to take most of our fans from us over the last few years, but to be fair we as a club haven’t had much to shout about in recent times.
“In reality, we haven’t been a well supported club in the last few years because we haven’t had a lot of success.
“Hopefully if we can continue the way we are going though, we can attract some of the fans back to Gateshead.”