Young Aussie goalkeeper, Alex Baird, is close to being apart of history for the small Tyne and Wear club Gateshead F.C. as they face Cambridge at Wembley in the Conference play-offs for a place in League Two. It has been a long 54-year wait to return to league football for Gateshead and we caught up with the former Newcastle United and Dundee man to ask about the build up, expectation and more on the eve of the historic match.
How are the squad feeling ahead of the big game?
Confident and buzzing. This last week at training has been intense, the competition at training is second to none, the sessions run by the gaffer and Darren Caskey have been their usual high standard.
What’s been the message this week from Gary Mills?
That we can win promotion.
Last time out you beat Cambridge 2-0. What will you have to do to beat them at Wembley?
Gary tells us to play our game never worry about the opposition, you can see he has played under Brian Clough because he keeps it simple but very effective in every message he gives players. The size of the pitch will help us we are a passing team and that will suit us.
It is one of the biggest games in the club’s history. Over 50 years since experiencing league football. What’s the buzz like amongst fans and around the club?
Terrific, the squad has been cut down in numbers since Gary took over and everyone gets on great. The whole of the Newcastle and Sunderland area has got behind the push as well. The revenue will be great for the chairman and should put a few more supporters in the stands next season.
What has been the key to the team’s success this year?
A positive mental attitude instilled in each player by the gaffer. It’s been a different approach. I’ve been at Newcastle and such where they analyse everything on the opposition and also your own play, but the gaffer is different he is very big on the mental approach, a little old school which I have found to be really enjoyable. Marcus Maddison (a goal scoring midfielder) who was with me at Newcastle has been on fire and has attracted interest from a few clubs as well.
You’re still very young in GK terms. What will promotion mean for you personally? Can you see yourself pushing more for a starting spot next season with or without promotion?
Yes I am still only 20 and it’s been five years here now in the UK and I am well and truly settled in. Promotion personally will be ideal as I am close to home and training full-time. I’ve been lucky enough to have a couple of great backup positions at Dundee and here at Gateshead. I’m still doing my apprenticeship the way I see it.
The break hasn’t come yet but it will and I have to be ready to take it. Our number one, Adam Bartlett, has been the keeper of the season and hasn’t put a foot wrong, he has been great with me and giving me advice. Barts is a local as well but I will be surprised if clubs much higher don’t come in for him this season. So we will see where that takes us but I am more than happy to be number two if Gateshead get promoted.