This is why the Gateshead squad can secure an immediate return to the National League

Gateshead stalwart JJ O’Donnell believes that a spirit of togetherness can fire his side to an immediate return to the National League.

Tuesday, 21st July 2020, 5:44 pm
Gateshead players celebrate after their goalkeeper Bradley James save the last penalty in a penalty shootout to win the Vanarama National League North Play-Off match between Brackley Town.

The Heed came through a nervy penalty shoot-out at Brackley Town on Sunday to secure a place in the National League North play-off semi-final.

Mike Williamson’s side are now looking forward to a visit to Boston United this weekend and the winners of that tie will face a trip to either Altrincham or York City in the final.

O’Donnell is only too aware of the excitement that can be caused by a play-off challenge at Gateshead after helping the club to within 90 minutes of a place in the Football League in 2014.

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The former Luton Town winger was part of Gary Mills’ side that fell to an agonising 2-1 defeat in the Skrill Premier play-off final at Wembley.

O’Donnell revealed that he can see similarities between the Gateshead side and the one that will travel to Lincolnshire to face Boston on Saturday.

“For me, over the years in my career, in watching football and playing football, you can have all of the ability in the world and the best players in the league, but what wins you competitions and brings you success is having that team spirit.

“Going back to 2014, when we got to the play-off final with Gateshead, I don’t think we had the best players or the best team.

“But we had a togetherness that was absolutely incredible.

“That is what will get us to the final, but obviously we know we have a massive test against Boston on Saturday.

“But we do have the togetherness, not just as players, but as a club with staff, supporters and the board, it’s one club now.”

The mood around the International Stadium is a complete contrast to the doom and gloom that surrounded the club during the controversial reign of former owner Dr Ranjan Varghese and his controversial financial advisor Joseph Cala.

The duo oversaw 12 months of controversy on the south bank of the Tyne as the club were taken to within 72 hours of going out of business.

A supporter-led consortium rescued the Heed from the brink and has worked hard to put in a structure to restore the club to the National League after they were relegated into non-league’s second tier as a punishment for financial irregularities under the former owners.

O’Donnell is now eying an immediate return to the National League ahead of Saturday’s tie at Boston and the long-serving winger admitted that he is determined to repay the supporters for their faith and commitment during a testing time on Tyneside.

“This time 18 months ago you had the players, staff and supporters together, but then an ownership that was totally separate.

“It’s one club, pushing in one direction, with one dream of trying to get this club back in the National League.

“It’s always been a regret of mine that we didn’t quite get into the Football League back in 2014, but if we can get one foot back into the National League, then you never know, it could be that first step back.”