‘A proper gentleman’ - Tributes paid to former Ryhope CW manager Gary Pearson

There have been several heartfelt tributes paid to the former Gateshead and Darlington player after he passed away on Thursday.

Saturday, 2nd July 2022, 3:18 pm

North East non-league clubs, ex-team-mates and opposition have paid tribute to Gary Pearson after the former Darlington and Gateshead midfielder passed away on Thursday.

The 45-year-old began his career in Sheffield United’s academy before moving into non-league football with Stalybridge Celtic in 1996.

A move back to the North East saw Pearson represent Gateshead, Seaham Red Star and Durham City before the turn of the millennium.

A move into the Football League was secured in 2001 and The Quakers were one of the first clubs to pay tribute to a player that represented them on 52 occasions between 2001 and 2004.

A statement on the club’s official website read: The club is very sad to learn of the death of our former player Gary Pearson.

“Midfielder/defender Gary, 45, signed for us in 2001, and went to make 52 appearances for us in three seasons, scoring three times.

“Our condolences go to his family and friends.”

Spells with the likes of York City, Horden CW, Sunderland Nissan and Crook Town followed before Pearson moved into the dugout with the latter in 2011.

After leading the Black and Ambers to promotion into the Northern League’s top tier in 2011, Pearson took over at Ryhope CW and made a big impact during his eight-year stay with the Wearside club.

Ryhope CW players, coaches and supporters celebrate their Durham Challenge Cup Final win after they came through a penalty shoot-out to see off Northern League rivals Crook Town

Perhaps his greatest moment came last season when he worked alongside fellow joint-managers Craig Hughes and David Pounder to lead the club to their highest ever league finish after they ended the campaign in fifth place in the Northern League Division One table.

A penalty shoot-out win against Crook in the Durham Challenge Cup Final also delivered silverware - but that would be Pearson’s final game as a manager following the sad news of his passing on Thursday.

Ryhope took to their social media to pay tribute to their former manager.

They said: “It is with most heart felt sadness and devastation to announce that former player and manager, Gary 'Gaz' Pearson has sadly passed away.

“From all associated at Ryhope CW, we pass our condolences to all the friends and family. RIP Gaz.”

Pearson - along with joint-managers Hughes and Pounder - had recently agreed to take over at recently relegated Division Two club Billingham Town.

Their early work at Bedford Terrace hinted that a promising first season could lie in wait after several players followed them into the league’s second tier from Ryhope.

Town chairman Kevin Close told The Echo he believes that shows the impact Pearson had on those around him.

He said: “We’d just been relegated and we wanted to get back up so he was the right choice because of what he gets out of his players.

“Some of the players he brought in were first division players and they came to a second division club because of him, because of his enthusiasm and what he brings out in them.

“He’s been part of the Northern League for 11 years, he was a tough player, he left a mark on a few, a no-nonsense, tough footballer.

“His passion was football and his wife and two daughters.

“It was very hard, and as much as people at the club have only known him for a couple of months, they were devastated because that’s the impact he has own.”

Gary Pearson, Craig Hughes and David Pounder are confirmed as the new management team of Billingham Town

Pearson also found success in the Sunday League game and played a key role in Heaton Lyons’ FA Sunday Cup Final win over Coundon Cons in 2008.

The versatile defender or midfielder stepped up to fire home a late penalty at Anfield’s famous Kop End to help his side to a famous win.

One former team-mate that day and current Gateshead assistant manager, Ian Watson, said: “He was not the designated pen taker that day, nor a pen taker, but stepped up and scored. We asked him that night why he took the pen.

“I can handle myself missing, water off a ducks back, I couldn’t handle one of the lads missing.’

“A short story to give you an insight of the man.”

Former Newcastle United left-back Wayne Quinn got to know Pearson during their time in Sheffield United’s academy and he also paid tribute to his former team-mate.

Speaking via his social media, he said: “I’m devastated. A friend who was a like a brother to me has passed away.

“Gaz was one of the good ones, a proper gentleman, a man’s man and someone I’ll never forget.

“Thinking of all his wonderful family at this difficult time. Love you buddy. Miss you already.”

More tributes followed a similar pattern, with former Darlington midfielder Clark Keltie saying: “He would put you in your place when needed, but was right by your side when called upon. It was an honour to be your team mate, Gaz. Rest easy my friend.”

Current Sunderland RCA manager Steve Riley paid tribute to Pearson’s tough on-pitch style and his ability to shown a different side of his character once the full-time whistle had been blown.

He tweeted: “Warrior on the field and total winner in the the dug out shared many a battle over the years and the scars to prove it but also had plenty pints after and laughs about it.

“Great player and manager but more important great person. Devastating news. RIP Gaz.”