Hartlepool United transfer target Scott Barrow has revealed he would spend the rest of his career with National League rivals Gateshead - if things had been different.
The Welsh wing-back has made himself a popular figure amongst the Heed Army since joining the club in June 2017. His whole-hearted displays led to him being handed the captain’s armband at the start of last season and he has led the Gateshead squad through a campaign littered with off-field distractions caused by speculation over the club’s future.
That speculation remains and over the last two weeks Barrow has watched his team-mates leave the club at the end of their contracts and management team Ben Clark and Ian Watson have also been sacked by club owner Dr Ranjan Varghese.
Barrow, who almost moved to Pools last summer and remains on Craig Hignett's transfer shortlist this summer, is Heed’s only contracted player – although he will leave Tyneside when his deal expires in the next three weeks.
But the former Newport County and Macclesfield Town player urged the Heed Army to stick together over the coming months and years and revealed his sadness that he won’t be around to play a part in their future.
He told the Mail: "The bond between the supporters and the whole squad has grown throughout the last season.
"In my first season here, I had a great bond with them, but it wasn’t that close with the whole squad.
"This year, it’s a lot tighter and we needed the fans to get behind us with the tough season we have experienced.
"They have been with us throughout it all, they have given us their full backing whether we win, lose or draw.
"The social media support has been phenomenal and within minutes of full-time we would all get messages and that meant a lot to us. They have been a big part of what was achieved throughout the season.
Left-back Barrow continued: "The bond can help the club going forward – no matter what shape the club is in next season.
"The players and fans have a strong unit and we haven’t taken any rubbish from anyone.
"We had the presentation night, and everyone was there celebrating what we have done together.
"There are plans for the supporters moving forwards, but it’s important that they learn from what they have done this season.
"It’s about sticking together as a unit, working together and building on what they have done as a group. It’s been very special to be part of that.
"I would have stayed for the rest of my career and be a part of it going forwards if it was possible, but it’s not looking that way with the club in the state it is in right now.”
Barrow reflected on a season that will live long in the memory of Gateshead supporters.
The Heed players helped the club to a ninth-place finish in the National League – despite the season being played out against a background of controversy off-the-field.
With issues over payment of wages, the club being put up for sale and the controversial departure of a number of key players, it would have been easy for the Gateshead players to become distracted and disillusioned.
But they put all distractions behind them to come close to securing a play-off place and Barrow believes that the players and staff can be proud of their efforts.
He said: "I learnt how to bring stability to a club as a captain during my time at Macclesfield Town.
"I had captains like George Pilkington and Paul Turnbull, and they were massive during a difficult time at the club.
"It was all about bringing everyone together and trying to do our best during a difficult season with all of the off-field distractions going on throughout the season.
"We had a good changing-room, we have all been together, there were no bad eggs, there were no egos.
"We have loved playing together and we have loved being around each other.
"It hasn’t been easy, and we had 10 or 12 games where we only had 14 players.
"But we have stuck together, we gave it a right good go and I think we can be proud of our efforts in a difficult situation."