Gateshead ‘has its soul back’ following National League North title win – admits former Sunderland and Hartlepool defender

An emotional Ben Clark believes Gateshead have reclaimed their soul after a remarkable season of success at the International Stadium.

By Mark Carruthers
Monday, 9th May 2022, 11:12 am
Updated Monday, 9th May 2022, 11:15 am

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Gateshead captain Greg Olley lifts the National League North League title (photo: Charles Waugh).

The former Sunderland and Hartlepool United defender was in charge of first-team affairs during the second half of the 2018/19 season as the club’s former ownership took the Heed to within 72 hours of going out of business.

After being rescued at the eleventh hour by a supporter-led consortium, Gateshead were relegated into the National League North as a punishment for financial irregularities under the previous administration.

Slowly, but surely, they have battled their way back and Mike Williamson’s side secured a return to non-league’s top tier on Monday afternoon with a 2-2 draw at Chorley.

Clark was on hand to witness the fervent celebrations at Victory Park and cut an emotional figure as over 4,000 supporters made their way to the International Stadium on Saturday as Williamson’s men got their hands on the National League North trophy following a 2-1 win against Hereford.

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After the game, he told The Echo: “The club has its soul back again and it’s wonderful to see.

“When you go into schools, I see lots of Gateshead shirts and that’s the most pleasing thing for me.

“I look in the crowd, it’s so many young ones around now.

“My two sons have been and they love Greg Olley and Macca (Macaulay Langstaff).

“Sometimes you have to go through bad times to cherish the good times and that’s what we have done here.

“It’s emotional, and I’m trying hard not to get emotional thinking just how far this club has come.”

Clark is still an integral figure at the International Stadium as he plays a key role in the club’s foundation and overseeing the Heed’s Under-19s side.

The latter has only added to the success achieved this season after they completed a league and cup double over the last fortnight.

Clark is enthused by recent events at all levels of the club - but is already preparing to move on to the next step once the celebrations subside.

“It’s been the best week I’ve had at the club,” admitted the 39-year-old.

“What Mike (Williamson), Busted (Ian Watson), Louis (Storey), Belly (Chris Bell) and the players have done is just outstanding.

“The supporters know how hard the lads have worked and the bond between the community and the football is as good as I have ever seen it.

“Days like this are just wonderful and it’s only added to a fantastic week.

“It’s been a great week for the club, we try and echo everything shown in the first-team and the manager leads by example.

“It’s been a successful year, and we will all enjoy the next couple of days, but knowing Mike and Busted, they’ll already be planning for next season.”