The story of Gateshead FC starts with a team called South Shields Adelaide Athletic, formed in 1899 by Jack Inskip. After spending a few years in minor competitions the club dropped the ‘Athletic’ from its name and made a move to a higher level, the Tyneside League in 1905. They turned professional in 1907, playing in green and red quartered shirts with white shorts at the Stanhope ground. Facilities were all but non-existent and the acquisition of a well-equipped enclosed ground was of paramount importance.
The start of the 1908/09 season coincided with a new home venue at Horsley Hill Road. In 1910 the ‘Adelaide’ was dropped to become plain South Shields but the nickname ‘The Laides’ stuck. When the club entered the Football League after the First World War they adopted royal blue shirts and white shorts. By the late Twenties South Shields were in dire straits and the idea was first mooted regarding a move to hopefully a better-supported base. Rumours abounded of a proposed re-allocation to a Newcastle suburb, to an area more responsive to a Football League club. The 1929/30 season was to prove the last for the club at Horsley Hill under the South Shields name. By mid-March it was announced that a move to Gateshead was definite. The area chosen to lay out a football pitch was the site of the future Redheugh Park, then locally known as the ‘Clay Hole’.
The formal name change to Gateshead was approved by the FA in July 1930 and the newly formed club kicked off their campaign at Redheugh Park clad in claret shirts with light blue sleeves and white shorts, inspired by the famous Aston Villa. Seven of the players who took on Doncaster Rovers had played the last match at Horsley Hill and brought with them the ‘Laides’ tag. Under their new name the club almost won promotion to Division Two when they finished runners-up to, on goal average, Lincoln City in 1931/32. But after a prosperous start it took only four seasons to bring the club to the brink of extinction and in a position South Shields had been in almost a decade earlier: low gates, financial problems and supporters dissatisfaction with the selling of the best players. Serious doubts were expressed regarding Gateshead’s continuing existence.
As was the case with so many other clubs Gateshead changed colours in an attempt to change fortunes at the instigation of Bill Tulip, the club’s lifelong benefactor. He always wore a white orchid in the buttonhole of his black suit at matches and this inspired the arrival of white shirts and black shorts. Gateshead also later sported black and white striped shirts and white shirts with a large black ‘V’.
The greatest moments in the clubs history came during their 1953 run in the F. A. Cup when Gateshead beat Liverpool in the 3rd round and progressed to the last eight before losing to a Nat Lofthouse goal against eventual winners Bolton Wanderers. Despite having a reasonable record in the Football League the club were voted out at the end of the 1959/60 season, being replaced by Peterborough United, although finishing above two other teams. After Gateshead were voted out of the League in 1960 they applied, unsuccessfully, to join the Scottish League.
The club then joined the Northern Counties League and eventually became founder members of the Northern Premier League in 1968. In 1970 they were thrown out of the League in favour of Bradford Park Avenue. The club spent a season in the Midland League before it came to the end of the road and was wound up. A new club known as Gateshead Town played a season in the Northern Combination before history repeated itself and South Shields, members of the Northern Premier League, moved to the International Stadium and became known as Gateshead United. Amazingly this club only lasted three years before hitting the rocks. The present club Gateshead F. C. was formed from the wreckage.
Throughout all their years of ups and downs until finishing their exploits in the Football League in 1960 Gateshead’s icon has been the portcullis taken from the council’s coat of arms. The goat’s head in the crest refers to the old derivation of the name Gateshead, rendered by the Venerable Bede as ad caput capreae, while the gateway tower in the shield indicates its modern interpretation. The portcullis hanging from the neck of the goat is an heraldic difference, probably chosen as an allusion to the first syllable in Gateshead’s name. The water in the shield indicates the town’s situation on the river Tyne. The crosses indicate that it was anciently part of the Palatine of Durham and therefore under the patronage of St Cuthbert.