Non League Daily

Robins striker Bainbridge reflects on a remarkable year

If North Shields striker Gareth Bainbridge was to cast his mind back twelve months he would see himself celebrating his side's EBAC Northern League Second Division title win.

He would also be able to reflect on a remarkable twelve months for the Robins, topped off nicely this weekend with their FA Vase semi final win over Hellenic Football League side Highworth Town.

Bainbridge, scorer of the Robins first goal on Saturday, looked back fondly on a remarkable year for the club, albeit one where he believes progress has been made quicker than expected.

"It's been quite a 12 months. From the moment I met Graham Fenton and Andy Bowman to discuss signing for Shields, they made it very clear their intentions on where they wanted the club to be. This was echoed by the chairman too.

Whether they planned it to happen this quick I don’t know, but the progress we’ve made as a group has been tremendous. For me it hasn’t been down to luck, we’ve all worked so hard for this and it's exactly what the lads and fans deserve"

With a one goal advantage and an away goal in the bag from the first leg it would have been easy for North Shields to take it easy or even let complacency settle in as they welcomed Highworth Town to North Tyneside on Saturday. However, the striker revealed that it was a sense of what was at stake that helped inspire his team to victory.

"As a group we just wanted it too much to ever drop our standards, it meant too much to us. We had friends and family coming along amongst the 1,500 strong crowd and we wanted to put on a show for everyone. We prepared as we normally do, didn’t change a thing in the build up and the result was testament to all involved"

A number of his team mates will take their fair share of headlines, for example winger Dean Holmes scored in both the home and away legs of the semi final and keeper Michael Robinson was in inspirational form to keep a clean sheet in both games.

However, Bainbridge was quick to praise the managerial team in place at the place effectionally known as 'The Morgue'.

"I hope the management get the credit they deserve. I’ve said many times they are the best management team I’ve ever worked under, The perfect blend of knowledge, talent, motivation and support. Both on and off the field they have so much belief in us as players and men. I genuinely believe that without those 3, and support from the chairman and his colleagues, that we would be nowhere near the heights we are at now, and aiming for"

It has been well publicised recently that Bainbridge has had a tough month in the build up to the semi final. The sad loss of his father, a man who he revealed loved watching his son play, brought a sad note to what should have been a remarkable time for the player.

However, in darkness he received support from the Robins, something Bainbridge admitted he would be "forever thankful" for.

"I think most are aware now of my personal issues over the past couple of months. I’ve had football to get away to take my mind off things, but my family haven’t had that so much. This Vase run has meant so much to myself and my family as we know how much my Dad loved my football.

My Dad was always so proud of any of my achievements win, lose or draw. He would want my family to be smiling again and reaching Wembley has definitely done that, myself included!

I will be forever thankful of how the management team, players, fans and club have treat me throughout this. Hugely overwhelming, I just hope I get the chance to repay them one day"

For now attentions will turn to their Northern League title challenge, as the Robins look to add another notable acheivement, in what has become their most memorable season for almost half a century. However Bainbridge was honest enough to admit that Wembley was already on his mind, describing it as "a dream come true".

"The final is going to be an unforgettable occasion. A dream come true for all of us. We are there to win a trophy though, not to stand in admiration of a wonderful venue. That can come before and after the game. For ninety minutes we are there to bring a trophy back to a town that has produced unbelievable support for us all"

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