If anyone thinks that rumours, speculation and big name transfers are limited to those at the top end of the game, they could do worse than looking at the North East’s thriving non-league scene.
Whilst recent years have seen the region’s Premier League clubs put supporters through some pretty barren times, the non-league clubs are doing us all proud.
And this summer, ahead of what looks to be a highly competitive season for non-league sides across four different leagues, a number of former Newcastle players have switched clubs.
So here is the lowdown on two of them and I pick out a Magpies old boy to watch out for this coming season.
Matthew Pattison (Gateshead to Blyth Spartans)
If there was a positive from Glenn Roeder’s stint as Newcastle manager – and there weren’t too many – it was his willingness to promote players from the club’s academy into the first team squad.
Obviously, as is expected, there were various levels of success.
Tim Krul, Paul Huntington and David Edgar were all handed first team debuts by Roeder, as was South African midfielder Matty Pattison.
After battling back from two career threatening injuries, Pattison made a handful of appearances for Newcastle, before departing for Norwich City. A spell back in South Africa was ended when Pattison joined Gateshead in 2014.
The Tynesiders were going through a time of change, with new owners, a new manager and a whole host of new players, so it never seemed as if Pattison settled at the club.
He was released by new Heed boss Neil Aspin at the end of last season and has joined one of our iconic non-league clubs Blyth Spartans.
Pattison’s comfort on the ball and eye for a pass should mean that he will settle into life at Croft Park easily, with manager Tom Wade encouraging an attractive style of play from his side.
It will certainly be worth keeping an eye out for how Pattison and Spartans get on this season, as they target promotion into the National League North (Conference North in old-ish money)
Craig Baxter (Gateshead to South Shields)
Another player leaving the International Stadium earlier this summer was defender Craig Baxter.
Baxter never progressed beyond the reserves at St James Park but has forged a reputation as one of the best defenders in the region’s non-league scene.
In his two spells at the Heed he helped them gain promotion into non-league’s top tier and agonisingly miss out on promotion into the Football League, as another Magpies old boy Ryan Donaldson was the match-winner in Cambridge United’s 2-1 play-off final win over the Heed two years ago.
In leaving the Heed, Baxter joins a club that are rapidly becoming one of the big stories in all of non-league football.
South Shields, now under the ownership of ambitious local businessman Geoff Thompson, have big plans of progressing rapidly up the leagues.
Amongst their squad is former Sunderland player, and my fellow Football Matters pundit, Julio Arca and they launched an unsuccessful bid for Shola Ameobi shortly before he completed a move to Fleetwood.
Getting Baxter is something of a coup for the Mariners. His comfort on the ball, tough-tackling and leadership will all add nicely to a rapidly developing squad and, should they gain promotion into the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Baxter will easily step up to a higher standard.
ONE TO WATCH: Paul Brayson (Newcastle Benfield)
As Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers rose up the leagues in the nineties a young striker was plundering his way to a whole host of junior and reserve goalscoring records.
Paul Brayson was tipped for big things at Newcastle and finally made a long-awaited first-team debut in a League Cup game against Bristol City in 1995.
However, Keegan’s decision to scrap the reserve team at Newcastle forced Brayson to seek loan moves to gain first team experience.
Spells with Swansea City and Reading followed, before Brayson sadly left St James Park, potential unfulfilled, with a permanent move to the Royals in 1998.
Since then he has scored goals at just about every club he has played for including the likes of Cardiff City, Northwich Victoria, Blyth Spartans and Harrogate Town.
Now, aged 38, Brayson plies his trade in the Northern League, as joint player-manager with Newcastle Benfield and the goals haven’t dried up.
Last season Brayson scored thirty-five times for Benfield, in a season where they club struggled, but ultimately survived in the Northern League’s top tier.
He will lead the line again next season and although picking out a veteran may seem unusual, any visitor to Sam Smith’s Park will witness a poacher’s masterclass from Brayson.
Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)