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Jack McGraghan
Author: Jack McGraghan

10th July 2023

This interview is taken from issue 204 of HeedLines, sold at our pre-season fixture against Sunderland on Saturday, July 8.

Jordan Hunter is embarking upon the latest stage of his professional career at Gateshead.

The defender become one of three brand new arrivals on Tyneside this summer when he joined after spending four seasons with South Shields, on the back of a two-year stint with Sunderland.

Despite spending the last five years in the North East however, it is Liverpool that the 23-year-old calls his first home.

“I lived just outside Liverpool, close to Preston and Lancaster,” he recalled.

“All of my Dad’s side of the family are Scousers, so I knew I was going to be a red or a blue.

“I’ve always been a Liverpool fan, I had Steven Gerrard as my idol when I was growing up – and he turned out to be my coach!

“I joined Liverpool when I was eight or nine years old and stayed until I was 18, so I spent almost 10 years there and loved every minute of it.”

Hunter’s departure from a club so close to heart opened the door for a move to Wearside, with Sunderland the club he had his mind set on as soon as he stepped through the Academy of Light’s gates as a trialist.

Photo: Charlie Waugh

“Sunderland were actually the first club that I went to on trial,” he said.

“I was really impressed with the setup. You were training with the first team once or twice a week and the facilities were brilliant as well.

“I finished my trial and got offered something relatively quickly, but I’d decided I didn’t want to go anywhere else.

“I moved away from home to living with a host family in Liverpool when I was about 15, so I was already used to living away anyway.

“Although I didn’t know anything about the North East, it was an exciting move more than a nervous one.”

Sunderland finding themselves in League One proved a blessing in some ways for the club’s academy players, who now had the chance of putting themselves in the first team picture that perhaps didn’t exist quite as tangibly in the Premier League years.

Hunter’s debut arrived four months after joining, away to Morecambe in the EFL Trophy.

“The manager was Jack Ross, and he got the under-23s over to join the first team every Friday to act as the opposition, depending on who they were going to be playing on Saturday,” added Hunter.

“That was your chance to impress, and if you did you’d get to go over with them more often, which would hopefully lead to a debut.

“I was involved in that competition quite a lot. Morecambe away was the game I played in, but I was on the bench a couple of times.

“It was just different to be around a men’s team – the physicality and the way the players communicate were the big differences I noticed straight away.”

The following season saw Hunter make the initially temporary move to Mariners Park, joining a South Shields side who were going all guns blazing in an effort to earn promotion from the Northern Premier League, before making the switch permanent with a three-year deal in 2020.

“Shields were the ones that came in first,” he said.

“I didn’t really know what to expect at that point to be honest. 

“I knew the setup at Shields was quite professional, but the away games were quite brutal at times. 

“The opportunity actually came up to go to Gateshead, but we were top of the league and flying at the time so the advice was to stay at South Shields and get a league title on my CV.”

Hunter sits in the offices at Gateshead International Stadium for this interview with the Northern Premier League title on his CV – though it would take all of his three-year contract to get it.

“We had that season when COVID was coming around, we were 12 points clear and should have won the league – we felt a bit hard done by,” he said.

“Then immediately after losing in the play-offs you’re thinking that it’s never going to happen, wondering why year on year we can’t get over the line.

 “Once you come back into pre-season you’re thinking, ‘this year is the year’, and luckily last year it was!”

Taking South Shields to the National League North proved to be the last thing Hunter would do for the club, with the defender deciding to step up two divisions and sign for Gateshead.

“It was a tough one,” he continued.

“I had conversations with Shields about staying, and I also had the chance to go to Australia which I ended up turning down when the opportunity to play in the National League came up.

“There were a few clubs who were interested, and once you hear that you’re texting players you know who’ve been there asking what the style of play is like and if it’ll suit you.

“I knew Blair [Adams] and Dillon [Morse] who came here on loan when COVID happened, and then when I came to meet the gaffer and Busted it was quite easy.

“I think the attributes I can bring suit the style of play and the formation that we’re going to be playing.

“I’ve loved the first week, and I actually had a meeting on Monday with the gaffer and told him how much I’ve enjoyed it so far.

“The sessions have been a lot more intense than they were at South Shields, and as a player you want to be working at the highest intensity possible.”

Hunter is now looking ahead to his first season as both a Gateshead and a National League player, and having already proved his quality to his team-mates, his aim is to do the same for the supporters.

“You have to prove yourself to your team-mates, first and foremost,” he said.

“Hopefully they’ve seen in my first week that I can more than just hold my own at this level.

“Then it’s going to be about proving that to outsiders, but I know in myself I can play at this level, and hopefully above as well.”

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