Thunder just don’t want to finish bottom

James Gordon

Gateshead will enter the new Championship 1 season having not won a league match since March 2010, and coach Kevin Neighbour says they just want to avoid finishing bottom this term.

The only points Thunder picked up in 2011 came courtesy of a 32-32 draw with London Skolars, scoring just 268 points and shipping 1094 in a season to forget.

With the Championship set to expand in 2013, Neighbour is keen to build some momentum for the years ahead.

He said: “I don’t want to finish bottom this year. That’s my only goal. If that’s only one win, two wins or three wins, then that’s it, we just don’t want to finish bottom again.

“We’ve got to build good performances week in week out, and the scores will take care of themselves.

“We’ve got to develop as players. At times it is going to be hard what with the Cumbrians and the other teams, but the experience gained last year will hold the players in good stead this year.”

Gateshead have endured a turbulent history, ever since their maiden season in Super League was ended by an ill-fated merger with Hull at the end of the 1999 campaign.

Thunder went on to become perennial strugglers in the then National League 2, before gradual improvement saw them reach the play-offs in 2005 and 2006.

In 2008, Gateshead were promoted to National League 1 as champions under coach Dave Woods, but he was sacked on the eve of the 2009 season.

Steve McCormack eventually took charge and steered Thunder to safety, but the club was wound up at the end of 2009 by chairman Steve Garside, and was relegated back to the now re-named Championship 1, and given a six point deduction for 2010.

Neighbour, who was a playing member of the 2008 championship winning squad, said: “The club was very upside down at that time. It was very top heavy towards the first team squad, and the underneath was lacking.

“But we’re much stronger now, more so than we’ve ever been in terms of junior development and the staff we’ve got working for us. 

“In a few years time, we will be producing a lot more of our own players, which will make the club stronger.”