The damage at Gateshead is done - now it's time to concentrate on the fightback

The culprits have quietly fled the scene.

Thursday, 13th June 2019, 2:29 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th June 2019, 3:29 pm
The damage is done - now the town must rally around Gateshead

The actions of Joseph Cala, Dr Ranjan Varghese, their cohorts and advisors have brought consequences that could have been more severe.

They have inflicted punishments that could have left a more long-lasting impact on Gateshead and, prior to a points deduction, could have stripped the North East of its top-ranked non-league club.

The fact that they were even allowed to get involved at Gateshead shows that the Football Association’s ownership procedures require a serious overhaul.

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There will be little remorse from them, there will be no sympathy towards anyone that remains and there are still more questions than answers as to why they even got involved at the club.

But they are a mere footnote in the history now and with that line, their involvement in this piece is over.

They have already been given more attention that they deserve.

The damage is done, the clean-up is underway, and the fightback begins now.

It is time to draw a line in the sand and move on.

It’s time to focus on what is important and, most of all, it is time to start rebuilding a football club that can bring great pride to the town of Gateshead and to the North East.

I stood alongside Gateshead supporters on the terraces at Harrogate Town in their final away game of last season.

The emotions were polarised.

There was pride and passion at the remarkable season their young squad had produced in such testing circumstances – but there was a genuine fear that their club would have just weeks left in existence.

Their concerns were not without foundation – and the people in and around our apparent “hotbed of football” have to realise how close we came to losing Gateshead.

It was close, it was too close.

Hope remains.

The supporter-led takeover is complete and those that hold the club closest to their heart now have control of its destiny.

The actions of others mobilised the fanbase at Gateshead and, after months of discussion and action, they have their club.

Piece-by-piece, step-by-step, the likes of Neil Pinkerton and Trevor Clark, now have the responsibility that comes with rebuilding the club on firm foundations.

They have made a positive start by persuading former owner Graham Wood to return to his position as club president.

The good feeling carried on with Alisha Henry being rewarded for her hard work as she was reinstated as general manager.

The appointment of Mike Williamson and Ian Watson the Heed’s new managerial team is also cause for optimism as the popular duo played a key role in the surprising success of last season.

But any optimism has to be that of the cautious variety.

Saturday brought the announcement that the club have been relegated into the National League North as action was taken over multiple breaches of the league’s strict financial regulations.

The decision means that the Heed will compete in non-league’s second tier with local rivals Blyth Spartans, former FA Trophy semi-final opponents Darlington and a Spennymoor Town side containing former favourites like Jamie Chandler, James Curtis and Rob Ramshaw.

Former Gateshead manager Steve Watson will also face a return to the International Stadium with his York City side.

It is a league packed with big clubs that are all looking to find their way into non-league’s elite and there is a need for a dose of reality in amongst all the romance of supporters owning their club.

Staying as a full-time, professional outfit will help Gateshead – but with that decision comes great responsibility for responsible spending, financial restraint and a strict attention for detail.

It also requires greater support from those in and around the town.

Too often in recent years, even in times of success and promise, Gateshead’s attendances have struggled to reach four figures.

Now that club needs the support of the town more than ever if they are to prosper in under their new ownership.

A sustainable, ambitious football club will only thrive if the local community will get firmly behind them – otherwise it will fail to get off the ground.

But, despite all of that, there is hope, there is ambition and renewed enthusiasm that a brighter future lies in wait.

After months of seeing their club stripped of players, employees and volunteers, the supporter-led consortium has already restored something that any football club requires.

They now have respect – more than a little too.

“Whose club?” the Heed Army roared during the closing months of the season

It is their club – and their hard work starts now.