It was five years ago that Ian Bogie took charge of his first game as manager of Gateshead. "We had Burscough at home here," he said, gesturing through the glass windows of the smart new cafe at Gateshead International Stadium towards the running track and the football pitch beyond.
"We won 1-0 and there were 182 people here. Last week we played York City and had 1,600. Last night we had Wrexham here and 1,300 people came to support us. That's how much progress we've made."
These are indeed heady times for the club known by their growing army of Geordie followers as "The Heed". In Bogie's five years as manager, Gateshead have secured two promotions and are now third in the Blue Square Premier League.
They might still be top of the non-League pile had they not lost their defensive lynch-pins Ben Clark and James Curtis in the 1-1 draw at home to Tamworth a week ago. As it is, after a 4-1 thumping against Wrexham, the new leaders, the Tynesiders will return to the summit – for 24 hours at least – if they win at Ebbsfleet today.
For the first time in four decades, there is the prospect of League football being played on the south bank of the Tyne. In 1960, Gateshead finished third bottom of the Fourth Division – ahead of Oldham and Hartlepool – but were voted out of the Football League under the old re-election system. They were replaced by Peterborough United.
Thus came a controversial end to the glory days at Redheugh Park, where the Tynesiders beat Liverpool in a famous FA Cup run that took them to a home quarter-final against Bolton in 1953. They lost 1-0 to a Nat Lofthouse header in front of a 17,652 crowd.
Redheugh Park is long gone – it was demolished in 1972. The site is now a five-a-side football complex next to the dual carriageway that leads across the Redheugh Bridge, over the Tyne, to the towering cathedral of St James' Park. Bogie, 43, played at St James' in his younger days as a bright, ball-playing midfielder. He was a member of Newcastle United's FA Youth Cup-winning squad of 1985, together with one Paul Gascoigne.
A year younger than Gascoigne, Bogie was not dissimilar to him in style and was dubbed by the local press as "the new Gazza". After just 11 first-team appearances, he was shipped on under Jim Smith's management, making his name away from his native Tyneside at Preston, Millwall, Leyton Orient, Port Vale and Kidderminster.
"We had a great crop of youngsters at Newcastle," Bogie reflected. "There was Gazza, Joe Allon, Brian Tinnion, Paul Stephenson, Gary Kelly, Kevin Scott. We all went on to play for the first team. Gazza was obviously the pick of the bunch. He was a fantastic talent and he went on to have a fantastic career."
It is Gascoigne's old youth-team colleague, though, who is threatening to put Gazza's home town back on the map – with more than a little help from Graham Wood. A former director of Sunderland, Wood has bankrolled Gateshead's move into a full-time operation – now into its second season.
He is also the driving force behind plans to move away from the town's internationally renowned athletics venue, where the Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell equalled the 100m world record in 2006, to a 9,000-capacity purpose-built stadium at the former home of the North Durham Rugby and Cricket Club.
"That's what we're striving for," Bogie said. "The season after next is the plan." And the grand, long-term Gateshead plan? That is to stage League football there, at the heart of the Tyneside town.Reuse content