Gary Mills interview: Gateshead FC warns his men of new pressures

Gateshead FC's rise to a play-off position will raise expectation. Gary Mills talks to Steve Brown about the new pressure on his team

Ian Horrocks/Getty Images Gateshead FC boss Gary Mills
Gateshead FC boss Gary Mills

Now it gets tough, now it gets interesting.

Gateshead’s goalless draw against Aldershot Town at the International Stadium on Tuesday night saw them climb into fourth place in Skrill Premier.

Now, Gary Mills believes he will learn anew about his players, and they may discover more about him.

The Tynesiders were fourth bottom just one week and three pointless games into the season, when manager Anth Smith took the still surprising decision to resign.

Temporarily caretaking, his assistant David Rush oversaw a win, a draw and a defeat.

But when Mills took the reins at the start of September, he saw a squad capable of a long-awaited return to the Football League but lacking, perhaps, the belief to genuinely make it happen, and said so.

It is that belief which he appears to have added.

In 22 league games under Mills and assistant Darren Caskey, the Heed have won 12 and drawn five.

Though elimination from the FA Cup and Trophy was disappointing, the former showed Gateshead can mix it with, in Oxford United, League Two’s then leaders.

And though progress up the table was delayed by the form and results of others, the club’s own success finally paid off on Tuesday.

There is still some way to go. But they are, now, where Mills said they should be, and would be.

With that, of course, comes new pressures, an expectation to stay among the play-off positions.

How the Heed handle these new hurdles will determine whether or not they can realise chairman Graham Wood’s dream, and make it back to the big time.

“I’m delighted for everyone at this football club, absolutely delighted that we’ve got ourselves into that top five,” said Mills.

“I came here to make Gateshead a success. My first aim was to get us away from the bottom and up into the top five in the league, and I’m delighted that’s happened by January.

“Now I’m going to learn a bit more about my players again, and they’re going to learn a bit more about me.

“It becomes different again now, mentally, to stay in there. It’s about belief, and we have already shown a lot of belief.

Gateshead FC manager Gary Mills
Gateshead FC manager Gary Mills
 

“I said to the players that when you want something really badly, you can go and get it. But it’s all right saying that, if you know inside you don’t really mean it, you won’t get it.

“I’ve meant it, and every time I talk to the players they can see that in my eyes.

“You have to push yourself if you want to achieve something. We can all go through life without stress, being mediocre.

“But that’s not being a winner, and to be a winner you have to be disciplined and forego certain things in life. One and off the field, it’s a challenge, a massive challenge.

“I only want players that want to do that, that’s important to me, and the response I’ve had has been tremendous.”

It has been, then, something of a change of culture, of attitudes. Of potential realised. Of discipline and application.

It is, however, far from done.

“This is just the beginning, but a promising one,” said Mills.

“We’d worked hard and never really seemed to move. Even three games ago, we were 12th. We’ve picked up seven points, which is massive, it’s taken us up to fourth.

“We’re in there, we deserve to be in there. I think we’ve got four draws out of the last six games, but those four points have helped get us where we want to get to.

“Because of the penalty miss on Tuesday night, the dressing room was almost like we’d lost.

“But what the players need to realise is that we didn’t lose and we moved up two places, into that top four or five.

“Regardless of whether other clubs have games in hand or not, it’s great to be in there because it changes the whole outlook. Come the end of April, we want to be looking forward to some play-off games.

“They’ll believe in themselves that little bit more now, which they should.

“I’m enjoying working with them. They’ve given me absolutely everything to get this club into the top five, and I’m delighted. It’s exciting for us, it’s given us so much to play for between now and the end of the season.

“But this is where the tests really begin. We’ve got a tough game coming up at Grimsby (Town) on Saturday. I never talk to my players about games you’ve got to go and win, but I always say that if we don’t win, then we don’t lose.

“So we’ve got to go and pick up a result at Grimsby one way or another, then it’s another home game on Tuesday (against Welling United) so it’s a good chance for us to pick up some more points.”

A chance, too, to build momentum among the Heed Army.

“The supporters are fantastic, I’m delighted for them,” said Mills.

“This can be a tough place to motivate yourself, because you come out to warm up and there’s no one here.

“When the fans do get here they’re magnificent, and when they come in big numbers, as they did against Oxford, it’s unbelievable. But we need that more often, we need the people of Gateshead behind us.

“We’ve given ourselves a great chance of achieving something special here.

“We need all the support we can get.”

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