Mike Williamson joined Newcastle when we were down in the Championship back in January 2010 after Steven Taylor had been injured.
And the former Portsmouth center-back – who stands 6ft 4ins tall in his stocking feet was an excellent buy for the club.
The big center-back played 169 times for the club with one goal.
And Mike just loved playing for Newcastle United and the atmosphere generated by the loyal Newcastle fans.
And that wasn’t just on game days.
But in general, as the city has its ups and downs depending on how well the team is performing.
If we win on a Saturday afternoon, you can bet things are jumping in the bars that Saturday night.
Mike came back in the northeast as manager of Gateshead, who are in the National League and was their manager in turbulent times for one year since August 2018.
He came back in January as their player-coach.
And he has been interviewed by Chris Waugh – the former Evening Chronicle reporter.
Mike Williamson – Gateshead player-coach
Chris is now with The Athletic, and this is some of what Mike has told him about the Newcastle area:
“It sounds strange but part of me craves that pressure. It exposes you… I always want to challenge myself.”
“Last season was an emotional rollercoaster and the summer was even more traumatic, especially for the fans,”
“Nothing surprises me in football anymore but those were unique circumstances.”
“When I was at Newcastle you could feel the city’s mood being dictated by the club,”
“Gateshead is obviously on a smaller scale but the same applies because the passion for football in the North East is unrivalled.
“One of the reasons I came into management was because I love those highs and the lows. I couldn’t see myself being in a job that doesn’t come with that sort of unpredictability; that’s what I live for.”
“I’ve always wanted to move back ‘home’, which was initially down in Devon. Then, when I met my wife, it became Windsor,”
“But two of my five children were born and another two brought up here. We all adore the place.”
“I initially moved here for football reasons. But this place gets inside of you. This is where we wanted to be. Luckily, once I’d made that decision, the chance to play for Gateshead came along.”
“Initially, when I came up, it blew me away the size of everything – the club, the stadium, the fan base,”
“It’s hard to quantify the size of the passion of the whole city.”
“A lot of people from elsewhere don’t get it. They hear people call Newcastle a ‘big club’ and say, ‘But they don’t win anything.’”
“But they haven’t experienced it. You just walk around town and every other person has a Newcastle top on. It’s the enormity of it. The passion for football is like nowhere else I’ve ever been.”
“Perhaps I became a little weathered to the enormity of it, being up here for a few years as a player, but my friends who left the club would say, ‘You don’t realize the size of it until you leave.’”
“I went to other clubs, still big clubs, but then you could feel the difference. When I was up here, I was absorbed in it; I loved it.”
Mike has a big job to do at Gateshead, who were recently in severe financial trouble.
We hope they can survive and do well in the current harsh environment with the coronavirus pandemic causing lockdown in many countries – including the UK.
We hope the pandemic will be over before the summer ends.
Gateshead could even thrive in the future – we hope they do.