April 18 2017

Another Grass Routes exclusive: Gary Forrest, who led Shildon to a triple triumph in 2015-16, will be manager of near neighbours West Auckland next season.

He’ll be joined by assistant manager Stuart Niven, goalkeeping coach Keith Finch and player/coach Paul Connor, all of whom were with him at Dean Street, but not by key backroom man Phil Brumwell.

Gary and his coaches left Shildon in January, following disagreement with the club over a player transfer. “I don’t want to talk about my own situation but I can’t persuade Phil to come back into football because he was so disillusioned over what happened,” he says.

The moves, much rumoured, become pretty obvious before tonuight’s match bewteen West and Jarrow Roofing when Stuart’s helping with the players’ warm-up, Gary’s on the field chatting to some of them and Paul’s also kicking around somewhere.

Gary promises a post-match statement and is (as always) as good as his word = though he insists that the deal is dependent upon West Auckland making significant improvements to their pitch.

The appointments followed a lengthy interview between Gary, West general manager Stuart Alderson and club president and Ebac Northern League sponsor John Elliott.  “Gary was absolutely brilliant,” says Stuart.

Though Roofing win 2-0 tonight – two more goals for Michael Mackay – Gary expects his new team to avoid relegation. “I told Stuart and John that I’d only move to a club with real ambition and I believe that West ha\ve it.

“If we can help them to do what they would like to do, then they could be very exciting times. The chances are that they’re going to finish fourth or fifth bottom. You could say that the only way is up.”

Stuart Alderson, with West fior more than 50 years, is delighted with the appointments. “Gary and his people did a wonderful job at Shildon, Last season they won almost everything – if we can pick up just one trophy next seasson, it would be brilliant. We’ll even try to do something about the pitch.”

Still not mathematically safe, West’s last game is at home on Saturday to Shildon, of all people. “Stuart will be around,” says Gary. “Unfortunately I’m on holiday.”

So that’s it, four games in five days – just like old times – and three matches in ten days which involve Jarrow Roofing. Richie offers a signing on form.

It’s a good evening, good crack and on the way home an interesting thought occurs: no one’s mentioned the general election all night.