Gary Mills loves a record.
The one-time youngest man to win the European Cup was setting fastest times as a junior sprinter long before then, and more recently – after ending his playing career aged 47 – took York City to Wembley twice in one week.
Last Saturday, he was informed he had overseen Gateshead’s highest end-of-season placing (third) in the Conference, guaranteeing their first appearance in the Step 1 promotion play-offs.
But it is the records available therein and beyond that truly interest Mills.
Wembley, virgin territory for the Tynesiders.
The Football League, 54 yearsafter they were controversially and unceremoniously voted out.
That, though, can wait.
First, the Heed must pay due respect to Grimsby Town, not least since the Mariners had much the better of Thursday’s play-off semi-final first-leg, when Craig Disley equalised Colin Larkin’s early opener and the visitors, whilst far from overwhelmed, were left indebted to Adam Bartlett for a series of excellent saves.
That kept matters tantalisingly in the balance before tomorrow’s all-ticket return leg at the International Stadium (4.30pm).
And while Mills has one eye on breaking a few more records, he has urged all concerned to focus, first, on overcoming Grimsby.
“Somebody was telling me last Saturday that I’ve broken a couple of records, crowd-wise, the highest Gateshead have finished in the Conference and getting into the play-offs,” said Mills.
“So let’s make it a season of records, but at the same time let’s not look too far ahead, to Wembley.
“I know it’s human nature that you do. That’s the carrot, to know you can go and play at Wembley by getting through these two games.
“It certainly drives me on and hopefully it’ll drive the players and everybody connected with this club on.
“It’s not just that. This football club has never been there.
“So getting to Wembley would bring a big smile to my face.
“It’s a ground that I think would certainly suit the way we love to play and I’d love to put my team out there to show people what we’re about.
“But let’s not get carried away, we’re not there yet and we’ve a tough game to try and get through against Grimsby.”
Following Thursday’s Blundell Park draw, a big crowd is anticipated on Tyneside, and Mills added: “It’s fantastic.
“I was hoping there’d be something like this when I first came into the football club, and it was nowhere near.
“I think people are now hopefully starting to realise that we’re a good side, a good football club and an ambitious club working as hard as we can to get into the Football League.
“We need all the help we can get, whether that be support or sponsorship, media coverage or whatever. We’re no different to any football club.
“But you can’t just ask for that, you can’t just say that we want this or that.
“You’ve got to go and show you’re worthy of getting that support, and I think certainly this season, the way we’ve worked and what we’ve done, we are worthy.
“Hopefully we’ve come back from Thursday with a result that’s got everybody excited for the game on Sunday, and we can get a massive, massive crowd in here.
“We’ve had 25 at places like Dartford and Welling, but you’d think we got 2,500 – they’ve been fantastic, week-in, week-out. The support, and what they chant, is fantastic.
“So for them, certainly, the support they’ve given us this season, I want to repay them.”
Tickets for tomorrow’s all-ticket second leg, priced £14 for adults, £9 for over-60s and students, and £2 for under-16s, are available from the International Stadium box office between 10am-6pm today.