THEY say you shouldn’t live in the past, but Gateshead, the hosts for Town’s opening friendly tomorrow, wouldn’t mind turning the clock back.
It’s 51 years since League football was lost to the Tyneside town, with its club discarded in controversial circumstances under the old re-election system which also accounted for the likes of Bradford Park Avenue, Barrow and Workington.
Gateshead had just finished third-bottom of Division IV, and unlike the other three clubs involved in the 1960 process, Hartlepool, Oldham and Southport, were asking to keep their place for the first time since joining 30 years earlier.
That counted for nothing as they were booted out in favour of Peterborough, starting a slide which left their Redheugh Park ground derelict and the club disbanded.
Reformed in 1977 and playing out of Gateshead’s international athletics stadium, the Heed have plans to move to a new purpose-built ground close to the town centre and genuine aspirations of following Accrington Stanley by finding a route back into the League.
In the Northern Premier when manager Ian Bogie arrived during the 2007 close-season, they have stepped up two levels and consolidated the Blue Square top-flight status earned in 2009, when Lee Novak topped the club goal chart before his switch to Town.
Now Newcastle-born Bogie, who played for his home-city club as well as Preston, Millwall, Orient, Port Vale and Kidderminster, is aiming to take them up again.
“I’d love to think we could get back into the Football League, and while we know it’s a real challenge, because there are some very strong clubs in the Blue Square, that has to be our aim,” said secretary Mike Coulson.
“We’ve made great progress both on and off the pitch over the last five years or so, we’re now a full-time football club and we’re working hard to create a structure which will take us higher still.”
Bogie, whose team kick off their Blue Square campaign at Kidderminster on August 13, has added four new faces to his squad and plans to blood them against Town.
Striker Yemi Odubade and Tanzanian defender Eddie Odhiambo have both moved from Newport, midfielder Micky Cummins from Grimsby and left-back Sam Rents from last season’s Blue Square Premier champions Crawley.
They join a squad which includes long-serving trio James Curtis, a centre-back, and midfielders Kris Gate and Phil Turnbull.
“The boys have come back from the summer break in excellent shape,” said Bogie.
“We’ve put in a solid week and the Huddersfield game will obviously be a stiff test against a side unlucky not to be playing in the Championship.
“They had a long season, playing a lot of games and getting to the play-off final. Like us it will be their first run out and while both sides will doubtless be a bit rusty it has the makings of a good match.
“Both ourselves and Huddersfield like to get the ball down and play in the right way, and both will have new faces in their squads.
“Results are not important at this stage. There are no points at stake and it is all about building up fitness levels, getting the range of passing together and a feel for the ball again.
“But having said that we go into every game looking to win and that will be no different tomorrow.
“Huddersfield have a strong Geordie connection with Lee Clark, Paul Stephenson and Terry McDermott there, and it will be good to see them again.
“It’s the same with Lee Novak, who will doubtless get a good reception from the Gateshead fans and rightly so.
“What he did in his one season for this club was phenomenal and he has gone down in Gateshead folklore.”