The Tynesiders have brought in eight new faces but lost some key players, Bennett stating the play-offs are a must. The average age of the squad, now up to 23 players, has dropped to just 23, some fans concerned with a perceived lack of experience.
“We have signed a number of exciting young players to compliment the experience already in the squad,” said Bennett. “Russell Penn, Jamal Fyfield and Paddy McLaughlin have vast experience and there are others in their mid-20s that are seasoned pro’s.”
Bennett went on to say: “There will be genuine reasons for supporters to have a go at us, but there are plenty of reasons for them to support us. “What we’re saying is, find your balance. By all means give us stick when we deserve it, but I feel at times we are a bit hard done by. “I don’t necessarily think the fans see the whole picture and Gateshead is not just a first team, it’s a club. “We’re trying to get everyone involved in that, and I’d like to get that message across. “There is a lot of good work being done on and off the pitch, which we trust will bear fruition.
“We are confident that we will take the club forward this season – we need positivity not negativity.” Gateshead have won their opening three pre-season friendlies, two of them at Northern league sides, and travel to South Shields on Saturday. Season ticket sales have been sluggish, despite a significant reduction, more hoping to be snapped up before the season starts in August. “I’m appealing for the fans to get behind the club. We are looking looking forward to the season and I believe we have got better players now.
“The struggle is keeping them at Gateshead because we’re a great platform. “It’s hard to get local players because they’re already at Football League level or they’re playing elsewhere. “We have a fairness financially across the squad and we don’t have some players on peanuts and others on fortunes. “By having that balance everyone is playing for the club and they have hunger and fire in their belly. “No one can accuse anybody of being mercenary at Gateshead, it’s not how we operate. “That’s a real positive for the club and ambitious players see us as a good platform to kick on in their careers. “We have good players at the club and we will be in a good place when the season gets underway next month.
” Increased backing at the gate is crucial to the Heed realising their ambitions. “We may be punching against our weight against some of the bigger clubs, but our budget is in the top third of the division, and has been since we took over. “If we want to progress to the next level we need support. We need to increase revenue by a combination of raising the fan base and business input. “We’re working really hard to get business and extra investment into the club to support our efforts. “We’ve lost Intu Metrocentre, who have been brilliant, as one of our main sponsors after three years and we’re now looking for a new main shirt sponsor.
“We’re talking to a coupled of interested parties, but the door is open for anyone else who feels they might be interested.” The aim, as ever, is to get Gateshead back into the Football League after 57 years of non-league football. “It’s been too long and we recognise that, but it’s vital the fans get behind the manager, the players he’s brought in and the club.”
Photo: Rob Chambers
By Jeff Bowron