Former Newcastle United goalkeeper Rob Elliot ready for a new challenge with Gateshead

Former Newcastle United goalkeeper Rob Elliot is ready to embrace a new challenge after returning to the region in a new role at Gateshead.

The former Republic of Ireland international made made 68 appearances during a nine-year stay at St James Park after joining the Magpies from Charlton Athletic in 2011.

Elliot witnessed the highs of playing in European football for United and was at the club when a second relegation under Mike Ashley’s ownership was suffered in 2016.

However, it is life on the other side of the River Tyne that will be the focus of Elliot’s attention following his appointment as Gateshead’s technical director.

Rob Elliot is ready for a new challenge with Gateshead

Although his new job title suggests the 36-year-old will be focusing on off-field matters at the International Stadium, he will also be registered as a player and will have coaching duties after officially joining a coaching staff fronted by former Magpies team-mates Mike Williamson.

The pull of the North East and a spirit of togetherness at Gateshead was too much for Elliot to resist as he returns to the game following his departure from Watford earlier this summer.

He told The Echo: “Newcastle is my home, my family never left the area and I was travelling up and down during my time at Watford.

“I had a great time at Newcastle, it was my home after a year or two of being up here and I know that would be the case.

Rob Elliot is reuniting with former Newcastle United teammate Mike Williamson at Gateshead

“My kids are Geordies, I consider myself to be one now and the North East is what I call home.

“Me and Mike spoke about how much you would miss the North East when you leave Newcastle and that is definitely the case.

“That’s why players come back, it’s the passion, it’s infectious, it’s a football area and there’s a community togetherness that we all love.

“That plays a big part in what is being done here at Gateshead and it’s a reason why I am looking forward to officially being part of the club.”

Rob Elliot celebrating Newcastle United's win over West Ham in December 2017 (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Officially is the stand-out word in Elliot’s assessment of his return to the region.

The former Magpies stopper has been a regular visitor to the International Stadium and has sat on the Heed bench as part of their coaching staff over the last 12 months.

During that time, he has witnessed a major period of success for Williamson and his players after they secured the National League North title at a canter last season.

They returned to non-league’s top tier last weekend with a 2-2 draw at Dagenham and Redbridge, and will host their first National League home game in over 1,200 days when Barnet travel to Tyneside this Saturday.

That is all a far cry from the negative atmosphere that enveloped the Heed in their last National League home fixture, when the conduct of club’s controversial former owners cast major doubt over their short and long-term future.

Now under the ownership of a supporter-led consortium, Gateshead are in a far more positive place and Elliot has been impressed with the work undertaken by his former Magpies team-mate and his backroom staff.

“They’ve done a brilliant job and it’s why I want to be here,” he explained.

“I want to work in this sort of environment and work with people I care about. I want this club to be even more of a success and to keep striving to grow.

“I’ve been in the game at higher levels, it’s quite cold and that’s not what it is here.

“The connection between everyone at the club is there to see and it makes you want to come in everyday and do that best you can for the football club.

“What has happened, the way the club has been rebuilt, with Mike, the lads and the players, it always made it enjoyable to come in here.

“Whether that was during my time at Newcastle or when I was at Watford, I would find myself wanting to come in and enjoy the atmosphere they’ve created here.

“What the club has gone through, in the way it was saved with some brilliant people coming together to save it, was really special.”

Elliot appears to be ready to throw himself in a unique role at Gateshead.

Not for the first time in the club’s history, a key figure within the club will tackle multiple responsibilities with the drive to push the Heed forwards.

Williamson, goalkeeper coach James Montgomery and first-team coach Louis Storey are all registered as players, with the latter also taking on a new role as Head of Football Development.

Elliot will also embrace a duel-role strengthening the club’s infrastructure, forging strong links with local businesses and aiding Williamson and his players in training and on matchday.

A return to playing has not been ruled out, although the presence of on-loan Newcastle United youngster Dan Langley and former England C keeper Montgomery could press Elliot into another new role.

“I’ll be registering as a player, in case there is a really major emergency and we need a number nine,” he joked.

“No, but jokes aside, everyone has several roles here, everyone pitches in and helps out.

“I’ll be working upstairs, trying to put a structure in and help out with the playing and non-playing side, trying to help the club grow, make connections, put things in place to help it run smoothly.

“I’ll be working with the people that have already been here, they’ve done a top drawer job, I’ll be supporting them in any way I can.

“Then, on the pitch, I’ll be working with the goalkeepers, whatever is needed on matchday and in training.”

Back in the North East and back in football, Rob Elliot is now up for a new challenge on the south bank of the Tyne.