Former Newcastle United defender Mike Williamson leaving nothing to chance as Gateshead player-manager
Former Newcastle United defender Mike Williamson is leaving nothing to chance ahead of his first season as a manager with Gateshead.
A quick visit into his office deep inside the International Stadium tells you everything about the level of attention to detail being shown by the former Magpies centre-back.
With a background noise of Ed Sheeran filling the air, Williamson looks calm and relaxed in his chair on one side on his desk – with assistant manager Ian Watson and player-coach Michael Nelson – still technically a trialist for the time being - sat opposite offering opinions on opposing sides, potential signings and their manager’s choice of music.
A whiteboard adorns the wall behind them and contains a squad list with injury concerns ahead of this weekend’s National League North opener against Southport.
To the right – colour-coded and neatly written - lies a fixture list for the first half of the season that awaits completion as the stresses and strains of a challenging campaign play out.
Below, perhaps most crucially, is a list of potential signings as Williamson looks to put the finishing touches his squad after a hectic summer in the transfer market.
But, for now, all focus is on Saturday’s home game against Southport as Gateshead celebrate their first season under the ownership of a supporter-led consortium.
Carrying the hopes and dreams of supporters that are now owners of the club brings pressure – but it is a pressure that Williamson is ready to take on.
“I am looking forward to it and I think all of the lads are the same,” explains the Heed player-manager.
“We have momentum from pre-season, and I think that can carry on into the season.
“We are a new group, but they are taking everything on board, and we hope to continue getting stronger.
“There is a responsibility now as a supporter-owned club, but I feel very lucky to have that.
“Everyone is happy that we have a club, the relegation is done, and we are moving on from that.
“We are grateful for everything that has been done by the people that kept the club going.
“It is credit to the people of Gateshead because they have come together, and we are more solid than ever.”
Saturday will be a landmark day for Gateshead as they prepare for a fixture that many observers felt would never happen.
But it is also a significant day for Williamson himself as he follows in the footsteps of former managers Chris Hughton and Alan Pardew by taking his first steps into life in the dugout.
There is a clear determination to move on from the events of the last 12 months as Gateshead were taken to the brink of going out of business by former owner Dr Ranjan Varghese and his controversial financial advisor Joseph Cala.
Now, after all the hard work keeping the club in existence, with a historic season just hours away, the message is clear from the Heed manager – it’s time to move on.
He said: “We want to win games and the fact that we are grateful that we have a club will always be there in the long-term.
“But now the season is underway, we are looking at winning games and focusing on getting better and getting stronger.
“I’ve loved the change and I have a fantastic coaching team around me.
“I get the best of both worlds, I can play, I can train, and I can give myself a rest when I need it,” he joked.
“But, the nature of the beast is that it’s a results industry.
“We are all coming together, supporters, players and coaches and we want to take this club forwards on and off the pitch.”
The vibration of an incoming call on his mobile sees assistant manager Ian Watson leave the office to take yet another call from an agent.
Gateshead’s new look squad still needs some work with another striker top of the list of priorities for Williamson and his coaching team.
Former Newcastle Benfield and Heaton Stannington frontman Paul Blackett has impressed in pre-season and will compete for a starting place with Jordan Preston in the opening weeks of the campaign.
Targets have been identified and negotiations are ongoing, but for now Williamson urges focus on getting three points against Southport in front of what he hopes will be a big crowd at the International Stadium.
“Looking over the fixture list, there won’t be any easy games in this division,” admitted Williamson.
“But that’s the challenge and it’s one that we will relish.
“The target for now is to win the game on Saturday.
“That’s the biggest game on the season in my eyes and everything is focused on that and that alone.
“The club have been doing a lot of work with local charities and with the local community, which is great because that can add some extra numbers on the crowd.
“Hopefully we can get a few through the gates and get the season started on a positive note.”
And with that, Ed Sheeran finally falls quiet, and Williamson gets back to focusing on getting off to a ‘perfect’ start to life in management.