Ahead of the FA Cup game at The Hawthorns on
Saturday, we caught up with Gateshead fan Alan.
He gives his views on the
Heed's season so far, the
Saturday's game, and more. You can follow
on twitter @apercival100.
HAPPY WITH GATESHEAD'S SEASON SO
FAR? WHAT WERE SUPPORTERS EXPECTATIONS PRIOR TO THE SEASON?
I have mixed feelings about our season so far. After reaching
the Conference Play-Off Final at Wembley last season and narrowly missing out on
promotion to League Two we were all obviously quite ambitious to go one further. Our
signings looked good in the summer and the start we made, beating Torquay at
home and Wrexham away, comfortably made me believe we were going to push for the
title. When we sold arguably our best player, Marcus Maddison, to
it felt like a huge blow. As time has worn on we've slipped out of the play-off
places, and now, as I write this, out of the top ten. On the plus side we've
reached the third round of the FA Cup and get to play a Premiership team.
WHAT SORT OF STYLE AND TACTICS
CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE FROM GATESHEAD AT THE HAWTHORNS?
Gary Mills has always adopted a passing style with a 433
formation. Our passing game starts from the back and builds. Some supporters get
tired of passing backwards, however if often results in a chance or two and it
beats hoof football. We may not get as much possession as we would like on
Saturday, but I hope West Brom fans will be impressed with our style of play.
THOUGHTS ON THE JOB GARY MILLS IS
DOING? I'D IMAGINE SUPPORTERS ARE PRETTY HAPPY WITH HIM?
We couldn't be much happier with Gary Mills. Since joining
the club he has turned us from a bottom six side struggling for form, goals and
clean sheets to one that entertains, often wins and often gets the result that
puts smiles on faces. The fact that we fear him leaving whenever a job comes up
in a higher league shows how much we respect him right now.
ANY PARTICULAR WEAKNESS IN THE
GATESHEAD SIDE THAT ALBION COULD EXPLOIT?
We haven't had a regular left back in the side all season.
The only plus side is that James Curtis, Ben Clark and Craig Baxter who form the
3/4 of the defence are experienced and can stop any winger or striker. We just
need that final piece of the jigsaw to finish that back line.
TALK US THROUGH THE GATESHEAD
SQUAD, WHO ARE THE FAN FAVOURITES, ANY PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR?
If I don't start with James Curtis then the supporters will
think I'm mad. Legend is used so often in football, but Curtis is our legend. He
joined in 2003. Stayed when the club was on life support in 2004 (only two
players did). He has played in four different divisions and holds the record for
most appearances. He even moved his wedding in the summer as it clashed with the
Craig Baxter and Phil Turnbull are also in the club's top ten
for number of appearances and were involved in both promotions and the Play-Off
Final. The image of Phil Turnbull crying at Wembley will stay with me for years.
All three have quality on the pitch, but I guess the player
who will stand out most to WBA fans is John Oster. He is 36 now but in the
Conference he runs the show in midfield. He thinks like a Premiership footballer
still and gives him and us that extra confidence.
HOW BIG IS THE GAME FOR
GATESHEAD, HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED ANYTHING SIMILAR IN THE FA CUP IN RECENT YEARS?
As I only count the matches from 1977 onwards when the club
last reformed (incidentally I was born in '82 and started supporting
Gateshead in '96) this is the
first time we've reached the third round. I don't think any FA Cup game prior to
this matches up. We've played at
Swindon, Brentford and
in previous FA Cup campaigns which were fairly big matches, but nothing compares
HOW MANY FANS ARE EXPECTED TO
TRAVEL TO THE HAWTHORNS AND HOW DOES THAT COMPARE TO A NORMAL AWAY FIXTURE?
I would expect a thousand at least, but hopefully more will
turn up. Our average figures at away games is around 50, but we took far more to
Wembley. Having been at games like Grantham Town and Prescott Cables away on a
cold February Tuesday evening and standing with the only other Gateshead
supporters there and saying "hello" to all six others - it makes you feel proud
knowing there could be so many on Saturday just seven years on from those games.
PREDICTION FOR THE REST OF
GATESHEAD’S SEASON, ARE YOU CONFIDENT YOU CAN REACH THE CONFERENCE PLAY-OFFS
AGAIN OR ACHIEVE SUCCESS IN THE FA TROPHY?
No matter the result on Saturday we can already feel proud of
our season. Promotion was always the aim so hopefully we can still achieve that.
It feels a long way off at the minute, but if anyone can get us there it is
these players and Gary Mills. The FA Trophy would be nice, but not if it hinders
us gaining promotion.
ANY INTEREST IN THE PREMIER
LEAGUE? ANY THOUGHTS ON ALBION?
When I was young I actually followed Aston Villa. Thankfully
I saw the error of my ways and now support a proper team in
Gateshead. Some of my family
live around the Birmingham area and my cousin's partner supports West Brom. She's
just had a baby so she'll probably be following the score at home.
Albion seem to be having a
strange season. The squad looks to have some good players in the likes of Ben
Foster, and I've been impressed with what I've seen of Saido Berahino on the TV.
You've announced Tony Pulis as boss and he has a good reputation of getting the
best out of players. I can't see relegation being too problematic this season.
Not now anyway.
THOUGHTS AND PREDICTION FOR
The thought of pulling off a shock is a nice dream to have.
Thinking of headlines and TV exposure to raise the club's profile. Realistically
a narrow defeat would be pleasing. We're under no illusions, but I don't expect
a thumping. If you push me for a prediction I'll let my head cancel out my heart
and I'll go 1-1. A nice juicy replay would do us very nicely.