Our Road to Wembley

We catch up with Gateshead chairman Graham Wood

Our Road to Wembley returns with the FA Cup second round and we are now following Gateshead.

The first stop this year saw us link-up with Blyth Spartans, but they failed to make it past the first hurdle in falling to local rivals Gateshead.

We are now following 'The Heed' on their FA Cup adventure as they gear up for the second round clash with Tamworth.

Gateshead are currently flying high in the Conference, as they bid to recapture the Football League place they lost in controversial circumstances back in 1960 when they were voted out in favour of Peterborough United - now riding high in the Championship!

Not many people can remember Gateshead in their league days, but one man who does is the individual behind their charge back to the professional ranks - chairman Graham Wood.

"I was there when we in the league, I very much remember it with fondness before we were unceremoniously kicked out of the league," Wood told skysports.com.

It is over half-a-century since Gateshead were last in the FA Cup third round when they faced Tottenham in 1955.

"I remember that match," admits Wood. "We had a good team then, we had reached the quarter-finals just two years before, not many people know that - we only went out to Bolton. Then the last time we were there we lost to Tottenham, but little did I, or anyone else, realise it would take so long before we could be back again."

Wood admits that the magic of the FA Cup is already filtering around Tyneside.

"We took over 1,000 fans - more than our average home gate - to Blyth in the last round, so I think that says everything about the passion for the cup," he continued.

"Now the third round is in our sights, and the excitement is intense although we are not taking Tamworth lightly."

Plans

Tamworth, like Gateshead, are currently in the Conference but are probably not as well placed as the North East outfit - who benefit greatly from millionaire Wood's backing.

And whilst Wood is currently bank-rolling the side, his vision is one of a self-sustainable league club.

Plans are well afoot for Gateshead. Wood took charge in 2007 with the club in the Unibond League, but after Ian Bogie was appointed the club were soon on the march and back in the Conference.

Now they are amongst the favourites for promotion to League Two, and Wood feels the club is ready for a possible Football League return.

"There really is little difference between the Conference and League Two nowadays, especially the bottom half of the league and top-half of the Conference, very little indeed," he said.

"This is a tough league to get out of, but that is our aim and what we are pushing for.

"But the object is for us to become sustainable in the Football League and with that I could see us in League One - very much so.

"I think the support is here, we used to get big crowds in the 1950s and yes things have changed now, but I still don't see any reason why we cannot get to that level.

"People look at our current level of support, but that is very much down to our location at the International Stadium - you can see when we moved there in the 1970s the support just dropped."

The club's current home is Gateshead's world renowned Athletics stadium, but whilst the planet's top athletes like it - not many in the football community do, with the running track just one issue.

But Gateshead are already well ahead with plans for a new near 8,000-capacity purpose-built stadium, closer to the centre of the city and nearer their roots.

And Wood explains that the stadium is not too far away, confirming: "Our plans have always hinged on us getting tenants for the leasable space, we were down the line with filling it with GPs via the PCT (Primary Care Trust) but with the current funding issues the plug was pulled.

"But now we have come up with an alternative tenant and are on course for the season after next, subject to planning, which should be going through in the spring and we can start building after that with a build time of just 46 weeks. We are looking at 2013."