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“I wouldn’t change it for the world” | Robbie Tinkler on football, fatherhood & the future | FEATURE
Jack McGraghan
Author: Jack McGraghan

5th October 2023

This interview is taken from issue 213 of Heedlines, sold at the Vanarama National League fixture against Wealdstone on Tuesday, October 3.

Robbie Tinkler may well be the busiest man in the North East.

Known to Gateshead supporters for his consistency as part of the back three on a Saturday afternoon and a Tuesday evening, you may be surprised to find that football is just one of the plates that the 27-year-old has spinning. 

Between entering his third consecutive season playing as a full-time professional with The Heed, operating a window cleaning business, and bringing his second child into the world two months ago, it’s fair to say he has his plate full.

“To give an example, last week it was Monday train, Tuesday game, Wednesday travel, Thursday work, Friday travel, and then Saturday game – so at least I had Sunday to look forward to!” he said.

If home life wasn’t already hectic enough with Tinkler and long-term fiancé Megan co-parenting three-year old daughter, Bella-Grace, things stepped up a notch further when they welcomed a son, Axel-Gray, in July.

“I wouldn’t complain, though things are getting quite tough since having the second bairn but we manage it and get through it,” he continued.

“We’ve got a good support network around us and between both of our families we have a lot of help with the childcare, which means I’m a lot fresher on the weekends!

“No one is ever ready for a child, and when the first one comes along everything is new.

“Then when the second one comes along you think you’ve got it sussed, only for it to be the complete opposite.

Tinkler and daughter, Bella-Grace, after our National League game at Hartlepool United in August 2023.
Photo: Emilio Kirtley

“There’s quite a gap between my two – nearly three years – so you get into a normal routine and then that all changes and you’re back to square one.

“I wouldn’t change it for the world though.”

By Tinkler’s own admission for his two youngsters, growing up with a football placed in front of them from an early age is ‘inevitable’ – even if he might be tempted to say otherwise.

“I say I won’t, but when I look at how my Dad raised me with football, it’s kind of an impossibility,” he said.

“Don’t get me wrong, if they pick another path then that’s fine and I’ll support them, but I think they’ll have a pair of football boots on by their fourth or fifth birthday!”

When he isn’t turning out in black and white or playing the doting Dad however, the defender can be found running his side hustle on his one day off during the week – a window cleaning business.

Set up during Gateshead’s title winning season of 2021/22 when the defender found he had a little too much free time on his hands, Puriclean NE follows in the footsteps of his uncle, who also has his own business doing the very same thing.

Gateshead v Barnet in a Isuzu FA Trophy Semi Final match at Gateshead International Stadium on Saturday 1st April 2023 (c) Garry Griffiths | ThreeFiveThree Photography

Though some of his clientele may not have expected to find a professional footballer turning up to give their windows or guttering a new lease of life, it’s a pursuit which Tinkler finds refreshing.

“It keeps you quite humble, believe it or not,” he admitted.

“I realised that we were getting home at half one or two o’clock  and sometimes you’d be sitting around for five or six hours, so I thought I needed to do something a bit more productive.

“The coaching wasn’t really something I looked into or had much drive for, but it just so happens that my uncle runs a window cleaning business.

“I took to it from there, made the initial investment and since then it’s been doing well – I’ve had to limit the growth to be honest.

“At the moment I don’t need to expand, and I’ve only got the one day a week to do it, but it’s quite nice to do.

“There’s a little bit of satisfaction to it, which sounds odd, but when it comes to it we will probably employ someone and go down that route – the ideal situation would be to do that and not have to work myself.”

For now though, football remains Tinkler’s main profession, and things could hardly have gone better since returning to Tyneside.

The defender re-joined the club in the summer of 2021 after time playing away from the North East with Aldershot Town and York City, spells he admits didn’t quite work out as first hoped.

His current three-year spell has seen him move well into a century of Gateshead appearances, lift a league title, and reach the FA Trophy final at Wembley Stadium – not too bad for a man still three years away from his 30’s.

He is firmly becoming part of the furniture on Tyneside, though that doesn’t mean the fire to achieve more has died down.

“Every single year the gaffer has sat us down and asked if we’re comfortable,” Tinkler said.

“He doesn’t mind that as long as you’re still working hard and pushing in the right direction – I think it only becomes a problem when you aren’t doing that.

Photo: Emilio Kirtley

“When I first came to the club I was I would say optimistic in my future. You’re not thinking about Gateshead then, and as a loan you’re using it as a stepping stone.

“As soon as I signed permanently it all kind of changed and I realised it was a really good place to play – I’ve grown a lot since I first came here.

“I’ve become quite settled in my personal life, but in my professional life I’m still trying to go places and kick on.”

Tinkler was one of a select few to break new ground in May by reaching Gateshead’s first-ever FA Trophy final, and becoming the second team to represent the club at Wembley Stadium in the process.

He had spoken of his ambition to play at one of the world’s most famous arenas as early as Gateshead’s first game in the competition last season – a home win over Gloucester City – though that is admittedly a hope shared by every player entering the tournament.

“I’m quite privileged to have played there,” he admitted.

“I was a bit of an odd example for that, because I didn’t think about the game all the way leading up to it.

“I don’t think about it until I’m basically sat in the dressing room, though that was a pretty tough one not to.

“Even sorting out tickets for the family and stuff, I said I wasn’t getting involved in it.

Photo: Emilio Kirtley

“We were dealt a bit of a bad hand with injuries and people who couldn’t play through being on loan and stuff, but the occasion was amazing.

“I just need to get there again now.”

Sitting today as one of the senior members of the squad – even if he doesn’t feel that way at times – Tinkler has played a key role in Gateshead’s impressive start to the season.

Part of that is his presence around the dressing room, which he says is down quite simply to keeping football fun.

“I try and keep everything humorous, because I think football can be quite overwhelming,” he added.

“The older I get, the more important it is to have some fun because it can be one of the most stressful jobs in the world.

“I’m sure everyone will love to hear that statement, but it’s emotionally and mentally stressful as well as the obvious physical strain.

“I wouldn’t change it for the world though.”

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