The day a non-league defender marked Aubameyang … after running a 10k

Gabon were looking for a warm-up match before the 2012 Olympics. Newcastle United were busy and their U21s were away, so up stepped Heaton Stannington

By Tom Nicholson for The Set Pieces, part of the Guardian Sport Network

In July 2012 Geoff Walker, the assistant manager at non-league side Heaton Stannington FC, received a very unexpected text from the club’s manager, Derek Thompson. Nobby Solano’s agent had been in touch to ask Thompson if he could help out some friends of his. The Heaton Stan manager was keen on the idea so he typed out a message to his No2: “Gabon are here for the Olympics. They’ve been looking for a warm-up game.”

Newcastle United were busy, their Under-21 team were away and Heaton Stan were next on the list. With Walker on board, Thompson then phoned captain, centre-back and junior tennis coach Joe Wear. He was resting up at home when he received the call. “It was a bit random, really,” recalls Wear. “It was literally the night before.” Wear was preparing to run the Great North 10k the following morning, so he was reluctant at first. But his manager explained the situation.

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