BOSS Gary Mills is convinced that his Gateshead players will have what it takes to perform on the big occasion – in tomorrow’s FA Cup third round tie at Premier League club West Brom – having himself experienced the rarefied air of a European Cup final at the age of just 18 in 1980.
“I think it’s important that I pass on the benefit of my experience to my players and they have all had recent experience of a big game with the trip to Wembley last year,” said the former Nottingham Forest utility man, who took charge of Gateshead in 2013 and steered them to last season’s Conference play-off final.
“It was not hard to pick the lads up because they found out they just want more of it. People talk about romance in the FA Cup, but we are a fully professional outfit and we are going there convinced we can put in a performance and get a good result.
“The growth of Gateshead as a club in the last 12 months has been immense. Crowds are up 70 per cent and people are starting to talk about us in our own right and want to come and watch us play.
“The progression has been great and this is another big game. I just want to bring more success to the club. It’s what I came here for and I’m loving every single minute of it.”
Mills hopes to create more happy Hawthorns memories – he scored a rare last-minute goal in Forest’s 2-1 win over the Baggies in March 1981 and revealed that he came close to signing for the club under Brian Talbot six years later.
Mills admits the appointment of Tony Pulis as new Baggies boss has made things more difficult but sees no reason why his current side cannot mark their first third round appearance in almost 60 years with a famous result.
Mills said: “I’ve been involved in a few battles at West Brom and I scored one of my few goals in a win there so I will be going back with plenty of happy memories.
“I’m a midlands lad and I know quite a lot about the club - I almost signed for them and had talks with Brian Talbot who was manager at the time but I opted to go to Gateshead instead.
“Obviously West Brom are not having the season they want and there was a bit of unrest there and we were hoping it was going to stay that way for at least another week.
“But now they have a new manager in place which will give everyone a massive lift. The timing is not right for us but we cannot worry about West Brom because we are a fantastic club in ourselves.”