Gateshead supporters reveal plans to form new break-away club - and they could be ready to kick-off next season
Influential Gateshead supporters have announced that they are ready to start a new club and have insisted that they will be ready for the start of next season.
The plans to launch the as yet un-named club were confirmed at a meeting of the Gateshead Soul Supporters Association on Wednesday night.
The move comes after a week of turmoil for Gateshead FC as current owner Dr Ranjan Varghese wielded the axe and sacked all but one of the club’s full-time employees.
Manager and Heed legend Ben Clark, assistant manager Ian Watson, kit manager JJ O’Donnell and Sports Injury Therapist Annie Davis were all sacked by Varghese over the last 72 hours.
And General Manager Alisha Henry and Press Officer Dominic Scurr were also informed that their services were no longer required as the Hong Kong-based businessman continued his cost-cutting at the club.
The vast majority of the current Heed squad are now out of contract – leaving captain Scott Barrow as the club’s only remaining player.
But the Welsh wing-back’s contract will expire at the end of June and he will be able to find a new club.
A statement released by Varghese on Tuesday evening also confirmed that Gateshead FC would be looking to relocate for the new season after being evicted from the International Stadium by Gateshead Council over an unpaid rent bill.
Speaking after addressing the meeting, McWilliams said “The current club has no ground, no players, no staff and, if we are honest, no supporters.
“It is basically a piece of paper, and that is it.
“We have always said that the supporters are the club, because everyone else comes and goes, and that includes owners.
“The people that are Gateshead FC were in that room last night, they were the ones talking with passion and fight for their club.
“No matter what league we are in, this new club will be for the borough of Gateshead and for the supporters.”
McWilliams confirmed that the new club would likely be placed into the Wearside League – six levels below the National League where Gateshead FC currently play.
However, there is a “slim chance” that they could be given special dispensation to join the Northern League.
McWilliams also confirmed that the new club already has the support of the local authorities and called on Gateshead supporters to give the town a club to make them proud.
He told the Sunderland Echo “We want to give the public of Gateshead a chance to support a club in the town and we want to play at as high a level as possible.
“Do we have to wait for the current owners to send the current club under? Do we sit back and watch it go?
“Or do we do something positive and forge our own path, together as a group of supporters.
“We have exhausted every avenue with the current owners, but they keep blocking every effort that is made.
“We have the backing of the local council and we have the backing of our local MP, we have reached out to various stakeholders and there are people ready to help us and give us their support.
“The fans will have a stake and we will have a say in the way this club is run.
“This can be a new dawn for football in the area and we can be the ones to make that happen.
“It won’t be easy, and there will be a lot of hard work involved, but we can give the town some pride and we can restore an identity, because, as Ben Clark said, that has gone missing in the last few years.”
McWilliams also revealed that former Rochdale chairman Chris Dunphy and former Dale director Bill Goodwin could come on board in some capacity and that a coaching team is ready to take over at the helm of the new club.
More announcements are set to be made over the coming days.