JAMIE Chandler says Gateshead’s Wembley defeat left him and his team-mates “heartbroken”.
Cambridge United beat Gary Mill’s side 2-1 in the Conference play-off final at Wembley yesterday to return to the Football League.
Many of Gateshead’s players - who were backed by more than 7,000 vociferous fans at the national stadium - were overcome with emotion at the final whistle.
And ex-Sunderland midfielder Chandler, from Boldon, admitted it was the lowest he has felt in his career.
“It’s hard to put into words how we feel seeing your team-mates and your mates crying on the pitch,” the 25-year-old said.
“It was heartbreaking. We’re devastated.
“It’s comfortably the lowest (feeling) seeing Cambridge go up those steps.
“It’s going to take a few days to react to it and see the positives of what we’ve done this season.
“It’s a really disappointing day - the lowest of my career.”
While the campaign didn’t end in a return to the Football League for Gateshead after a 54-year absence, Mills’s team has still done their club and its support proud.
And Chandler says there is a special bond between players and supporters at the International Stadium.
“They’ve been absolutely incredible,” said Chandler.
“I was here last season in a relegation fight, and they travelled the length of the country in numbers.
“They really get behind you. It’s been fantastic for them as well. They’ve been a 12th man at times this season.
“As players we can’t thank them enough for the support they’ve given us.
“They didn’t stop singing through the 90 minutes, and it was very emotional seeing them clap us off the pitch.
“There’s a mutual respect there between the players and fans.”
Cambridge took the lead late in the first half through a Liam Hughes header, and Ryan Donaldson doubled their advantage early in the second half with a free kick.
Jack Lester got Gateshead back in the game 10 minutes from time, but Cambridge withstood a spell of late pressure to go up.
“The first goal probably came at the right time for them, and they scored early in the second half,” said Chandler. “That was hard to take as well.
“It was a bit of an uphill task after that, but we had chances, even at the death. It just wasn’t our day.”
Meanwhile, Mills will take a break before focusing on taking Gateshead up at the second attempt next season.
“We’ve had a knock,” said Mills. “We’ve lost at Wembley, now it’s about bouncing back for next season.”