Interview | Nelson previews Boxing Day derby with Gateshead

Photo credit: Steve Betts

MANAGER Michael Nelson wants his players to understand how much the Boxing Day meeting with Gateshead means to Blyth Spartans supporters.

Spartans host local rivals Gateshead at Croft Park this week, the first of a festive double-header between the two clubs with the return fixture taking place at the International Stadium on January 2nd.

The same happened last season but in reverse, with Blyth running out 3-2 winners away from home before a late equaliser from Levi Amantchi rescued a 3-3 draw on home soil. 

Of course, a lot has changed since then, not least the spread of Covid-19, which forced Nelson and his players into self isolation for a third time last week. 

But the former Hartlepool United defender hopes the fond memories from the fixture last year can help spur Spartans on. 

He told blythspartans.com: “I know from being on the other side last season that Blyth took four points from the two games.

“The fans will have good memories from that, so hopefully we can use that to drive us on.

“Sometimes form goes out the window during derbies – hopefully our lads will be right up for it, come out fighting and show a bit of quality to get the result.

“Gateshead have a really good set up and a really strong squad.

“They probably haven’t got the results they wanted recently – they’ve been hit with late sucker punches in games, so they’ll be fighting to have a great Christmas, as will we.

“They’ve probably got the edge in terms of being a full-time outfit and being able to train whilst we’ve been in isolation but as I say, form sometimes goes out the window in these types of games.

“It can just become about that 90 minutes, so our lads will need to perform on the day and get a result.”

Nelson continued: “It is just another game in terms of you get three points at the end of it if you win but you’ve got to let the players know what it means to the fans.

“We’ve got a lot of young lads who maybe haven’t played in local derbies but I’m sure they support clubs that make you understand what derbies are like.

“I’m sure the lads who have been involved in them and the staff as well – there is no one more passionate than Peter and Jeff to let the lads know exactly what it means.

“You can go down in a bit of history if you score against your local rivals – just look at Levi (Amantchi) last year with the last-minute equaliser.

“I’m sure that will spur him on to try and recreate that this year, even though the fans won’t be there. If he scores a winner or an equaliser, I’m sure he’ll enjoy it just as much as last season.

“I’m sure the lads will be in the right frame of mind come kick-off on Boxing Day and hopefully we can make the supporters’ Christmas a little bit brighter by getting a positive result.”

Posted by Jordan Cronin