First team up at Fortress Cae Ras will be our old friends from the Heed.
After finishing third last season Gateshead were a bit unlucky in missing promotion when they suffered “Wembley heartache” against Cambridge in the play off final.
Well we know all about that but it looks like the Heed have bounced back in fine fashion following their demolition of Torquay on Saturday. The 3 -1 victory looks like a statement of intent and Tuesday nights clash will be a good indication as to how far we have come in the Age of Wilkin.
Gateshead have a lot going for them. An ambitious owner who seems willing to fund them. A top non league manager in Gary Mills and an attractive passing team who would not look out of place in the Football League. With a shiny new stadium planned for the town they are definitely on the up.
What they dont have is a large fanbase. Saturdays crowd of 1700 was massive by Heed standards and their stated target for this season is to attain a “four figure” average.
They only managed to take 7000 to Wembley in May and the majority of home games last season were watched by three figure crowds. To counter this they have offered season ticket holders from the neighbouring Toon and Sunderland a reduced price offer of £10. This is £5 cheaper than their own fans have to pay and is an interesting move.
They have also introduced what they call a Flex 15 season ticket which would enable shift workers and others to commit to the club even though they cannot make every game. It is something that we should take a look at.
The squad that did so well last season is largely intact despite the culling of eleven fringe players, the most notable being that tosser Brodie and lower league legend Colin Larkin.
To counter this Mills has been very active this summer and has brought in nine players to strengthen the squad. Most notable of these is former Heed hero Jon Shaw. If the Luton misfit can rediscover his shooting boots then they will be a formidable proposition.
Other notable signings include former Hereford front man Michael Rankine and the Grimsby winger Alex Rodman. The squad has depth and deserve respect.
The touch of magic is provided by former Wales whizz kid John Oster. The Aaron Ramsey of the 90s is knocking on a bit now but on his day is a class act and we urge any youngsters watching on Tuesday to pay attention to how this man plays.
Well, we say good luck to the Heed. They play the game in the right way. Reading back over our notes it looks like we are really bigging them up. That is not the case. They are a strong team to be sure but we are confident that we have enough to send them packing on the night.
It should be a good test for Joe Clarkes Wrexham but the three points will stay in the North East…………..of Wales.