Mark Carruthers: A fond farewell to a retiring Ebac Northern League great plus how you can support an important mental health campaign
The announcement of the retirement of one of the Ebac Northern League’s most familiar faces was particularly well-timed this week.
At the age of 40, Chester-le-Street Town stalwart Craig Marron brought an end to over two decades of service across the league when the brought a close to his playing career following last weekend’s game against Bedlington Terriers.
A fearsome, whole-hearted midfielder, Marron has become part of the furniture and his name has become synonymous with the Cestrians.
Since making his debut for the club in October 1997, Marron has also played for the likes of Esh Winning, Ryton, Birtley Town and Ryhope CW, before returning “home” to play out the final years of his career with Chester-le-Street.
He is, as many would no doubt describe him, a true “club” man.
Chester-le-Street Town means everything to him, just as he means everything to the football club - and that is why the news Marron will continue to play a role behind the scenes is extremely significant.
I don’t mind admitting, I have always admired Craig as a player - but that is far surpassed by my admiration for him as a person and the way he has opened up about his fears over ending his playing career.
It is just over three years since I sat around a table with him, Whickham winger Jack Robson, my former Football Matters colleague Andy Sixsmith and Durham Corinthians midfielder and If U Care Share Foundation co-founder Matthew Smith to record a mental health podcast special.
At a time when it can be challenging for men to open up about their mental health, all five of us spoke honestly and openly about our own personal battles throughout the years.
Perhaps the most revealing and some would say surprising aspect of the night was Craig’s admission he had serious concerns over his own welfare once he decided to bring a close to his on-pitch career.
The subject of coping post-retirement in non-league football is rarely mentioned - despite being an open discussion when it comes to the professional game.
But there can be no doubt that the camaraderie, the togetherness and the banter of a dressing room will be a miss to any player at any level of the game.
The understandable feeling of separation, detachment and, dare I say, loss would be understandable for someone that has been a player for over 20 years.
So the news that Craig will remain a part of his beloved club should be welcomed and the Cestrians deserved recognition for their decision.
The timing of his announcement is well-timed as it coincides with an annual campaign ran by a charity close to both mine and Craig’s heart.
Chester-le-Street-based If U Care Foundation will mark next week’s World Suicide Prevention Day by running their ‘Inside Out’ campaign.
In my role as an ambassador for the foundation, I have been working with non-league clubs around the North East and beyond to get them involved over the next two weekends.
The message is simple, it’s about getting what’s on the inside out and promoting and encouraging open discussion about mental health.
I am delighted to say that the North East non-league scene has answered in their numbers and clubs across all levels of the pyramid have rallied behind the cause.
So, over the next ten days or so, keep an eye out for players, volunteers and management at clubs promoting #InsideOut via their social media channels with photos of items of clothing turned inside out.
Over the last few years, the campaign has taken off and it has helped share the message of talking openly about mental health and getting what is on the inside out around the country.
From Premier League to Sunday League and grassroots football, the message remains the same.
It’s ok to not be ok - and it’s ok to openly discuss mental health.
Could there be more contrasting moods on either side of the River Tyne?
After a poor start to the Premier League season, and a desperately disappointing transfer window, anger and frustration has once again enveloped Newcastle United.
That is quite the contrast to the current outlook on the south bank of the Tyne as another club that wears black and white continue to impress on and off the pitch.
With seven points from their opening three National League North fixtures, Gateshead have continued the momentum built during a positive summer in the transfer market.
New additions like England C wing-back Robbie Tinkler, former Newcastle duo Owen Bailey and Adam Campbell and former Carlisle United striker Cedwyn Scott have all been added to an already talented squad since the end of last season.
For a large part of Bank Holiday Monday’s home win over Guiseley the Heed play a stylish brand of football based on possession and attacking intent.
I said in pre-season that seeing Mike Williamson’s side rated at 20/1 to top the National League North table at the end of the season seemed generous.
And nothing I have seen so far this year has changed my mind - I still think they have a genuine chance of promotion and a return to non-league’s top tier this season.