Less than 24 hours after the departure of general manager Alisha Henry, Gateshead owner Dr Ranjan Varghese has sacked the club’s assistant manager Ian Watson.
The former Darlington and Blyth Spartans defender has been at the International Stadium for the last four seasons, but his time with the club was brought to a close via a letter attached to an e-mail from the Heed owner on Monday lunchtime.
As yet there has been no clarification on the future of Heed boss Ben Clark, but losing his number two will be a big blow to the former Hartlepool United defender.
It was Malcolm Crosby that initially brought Watson to the club as a strength and conditioning coach and he remained in that position throughout the reigns of Crosby’s successors Neil Aspin and Steve Watson.
The departure of the latter led to Watson stepping us as assistant manager to club legend Ben Clark and the duo helped the Heed consolidate in the top ten of the National League – despite have to contend with a number of off-field issues including the departures of key players Fraser Kerr and Scott Boden and the club remaining under a transfer embargo.
Watson discussed his departure with the Sunderland Echo and revealed that he has been left with no regrets over his time on the south bank of the Tyne.
“I have loved every second of it,” explained Watson
“When I first joined the club Malcom Crosby was there, and I owe him a lot.
“Neil Aspin came in, and I enjoyed a good working relationship with him and I had the same with Steve Watson, who was great for me to be fair.
“Since I became assistant manager I have built up a really strong relationship with Ben Clark and Mike Williamson and that is something that I will take with me.
“I want to thank Ben for giving me the opportunity to step up as his assistant.
“I’d like to think I did well in the assistant manager role and a lot of people may have questioned me being handed that position.
“But the players have been brilliant to work with and they have helped us achieve something that nobody expected us to this season, so I have to thank them for that.
“I never took my position for granted and I turned up every day at the stadium knowing I worked for a great club.
“I have no regrets about the move, and I am gutted to be leaving.”
Watson enjoyed a strong relationship with the Gateshead supporters and that was strengthened throughout the current season and the club threatened to break into the National League play-offs.
He has sympathy for the Heed faithful, who he described as “a brilliant group of supporters”.
He said “I never got to understand how the supporters were when I was part-time at the club, but when I went full-time, I was blown away by how strong their feelings and their passion are.
“What has happened at the club has brought us closer together and I think we have had a team and a season that they will never forget.
"I had hoped that we would be able to build on this season and move the club on, but obviously that’s not going to get sorted.
“I just hope that they get what they want because they are a brilliant group of supporters.”
It is understood that the move is part of a cost-cutting exercise being undertaken by Hong Kong-based businessman Varghese and casts further doubt on whether the club remains up for sale.
Former Rochdale chairman Chris Dunphy has confirmed to the Echo that he remains interested in taking over the National League club and his offer remains on the table – but the 68-year-old is not expecting an answer from Varghese or the club’s controversial financial advisor Cala.
Varghese and Cala are set to appear in front of the Football Association this week as part of an ongoing investigation in the latter’s involvement in the club.