WHETHER Gary Mills leaves Wembley on Sunday as a winner or a loser is yet to be determined – but the Gateshead boss was certainly the former at the Non-League Paper’s National Game Awards on Tuesday.
When Mills took over as Heed boss back in September, the club was only outside the relegation zone on goals scored.
But fast forward to the present day and they find themselves battling it out with Cambridge United at the home of English football for a place in the Football League on Sunday.
That’s quite a turnaround and exactly why he was voted as the S&C Slatter Manager of the Year at the Non-League Paper’s National Game Awards at Fulham’s Craven Cottage on Tuesday.
“It is great to win the award and it has been a magnificent few months for me,” said Mills.
“It has not been a full season because I got the job in September but basically I knew there were good players there so it was a case to get them mentally changed so that they wanted to win football matches and believe that they can.
“And we have done that and got to Wembley with the chance to get them back into the Football League.
“It is lovely to receive the award because whenever you win them it means you are doing okay so I feel good about it.
“They had lost the first four games and I needed to get the belief and confidence back and they would find out over the coming weeks and months about how I work but they had a smile on their faces.
“We enjoy what we do and the players got smiling and started to learn the disciplines in the club that I like and they grew into it and they enjoy it.”
Gateshead finished the season with nine wins and three draws from 12 games to land third place and guarantee their place at Wembley this weekend.
It is the first time the club will play at Wembley but Mills insists he will be treating it as any other game.
“Anytime you get to Wembley is magnificent,” he added. “To go back with Gateshead now for the first time, they've never been in their history, is great but we all know it is the place to win so I have to make sure I prepare the players in the right way.
“We will prepare the same way we would normally do. We know it's different but if you do things differently, you do fail. We have won games preparing the way we have and we will do exactly the same going to Wembley.”
Budweiser Club Futures has invested £1m into non-league football over two seasons, providing 16 clubs with £50,000 grants. Two of these clubs received additional £100,000 Super Grants. To watch the documentary on the Budweiser Open Trials, which gave amateur footballers a second shot at glory, visit www.youtube.com/budweiseruk