DON’T call him ‘Superscout’, but as Whitley Bay’s spy kid, Gavin Fell is one of the most important people on the Seahorses staff, and a major factor behind their success. He just doesn’t do covert.
The Whitley head coach is regularly assigned to watch the club’s future FA Vase opponents, and ahead of Sunday’s Wembley final against Coalville Town, has recently taken in a handful of the Leicestershire-based Midland Alliance champions’ games.
Reports and recommendations are filed with, and “99 per cent of the time” actioned upon by, Bay boss Ian Chandler and assistant Steve Cuggy, and it is this “advanced” level of preparation that has helped the Northern League outfit reach three successive Vase finals, winning the past two.
Now, Fell – a Uefa B-licensed coach – is putting the finishing tactical touches to the weekend’s plans, determined to make sure a “surreal” opportunity does not pass Whitley by.
And he’s hoping claim the rewards of his less-than undercover operations. “Ha, there’s no disguise,” he laughed, of his scouting trips.
“I wear my Whitley Bay tracksuit and jumper and drive down and into the grounds in a club van with ‘Whitley Bay’ splattered all over the side!
“When you’re doing that, a hat and a pair of sunglasses aren’t going to do me any favours! But the important thing is that we do our homework.
“It all started way back in 2008, Lowestoft Town away, that horrible day when we got beat 4-0.
“We still talk about it now, and the one thing we’re adamant that we do get right leading up to Vase games is getting the preparation absolutely spot on. I’m a big advocate of that, because it takes away the excuses.
“If you stay in a hotel the night before a game, and train on good pitches and you’ve got everything laid on for you, then as a player you’ve got to go onto the pitch and perform. There is no excuse.
“I went down and watched Coalville (in a 2-0 win) against Tipton Town a couple of weeks ago, and bought a load of DVDs from their clubhouse which we’ve looked at.
“They’re a decent side who on their day will cause anyone problems, but we have a few things up our sleeve. We do everything we can and we do it properly.
“It’s probably a little way in advance of the level we’re at but the proof in the pudding is there for all to see, three years in a row. Do it right and you get your reward.
“It’s still unreal though. To go to a place like Wembley is every footballer’s dream, and that goes for us as coaches too.
“To go three times in three seasons is just surreal, and an absolute pleasure.
“People ask if I’m getting sick of it now but you can’t get sick of going to a place like Wembley.
“When you go in and see the facilities, the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
“It sounds cheesy but it’s a dream come true. It’s something that you strive towards as a footballer, so to go three times is incredible. We just have to make sure we don’t miss out on a third in a row.”
:: TICKETS for the final (priced £25 for adults, £15 for concessions) are available from the club’s Hillheads ground until tomorrow; by telephone (0191 402 8888, with a booking fee for credit card charges) until this evening; and from the Newcastle United FC box office. For further details of all things Vase-wise log onto www.whitleybayfc.com.