Blyth Spartans have a long history of producing players who have gone on to a career as a full-time professional but no one had such a meteoric rise to the full-time game as goalkeeper Peter Guthrie.
Back on October 1986, Blyth manager Jim Pearson was on the lookout for a successor to legendary keeper Dave Clarke, Clarkie was looking to retire and had began coaching the side so both Richard Hartiss & Stephen Gray had been given chances between the sticks but had failed to impress so Pearson was still looking for someone.
To Blyth supporters surprise that person came in the form of an unknown goalkeeper who had been at Middlesbrough. Peter Guthrie had started playing on a Sunday morning for Forest Hall Legion Club, but caught the Boro’s attention while playing for Wearside League Whickham.
Although unknown to Blyth fans his performances had begun to attract attention as he came within 90 minutes of playing at Wembley when Whickham lost an FA Vase Semi Final to Stanstead, Boro signed him but by his own admission that didn’t work out:
“I was too green for League football and needed another couple of years learning”.
Jim Pearson rang him inviting him along to training at Croft Park. Peter impressed in training and signed permanently making his debut in a 2-0 victory at South Bank on 29th October.
Peter benefited from Dave Clarke’s coaching and quickly impressed everyone as he made the No.1 jersey his own as Blyth went on an FA Trophy run that was to see them eventually play Nuneaton Borough in 3 replays !. However it was his performance in the 2nd Round victory at Bath City that laid the foundations to an incredible year in his career.
Following the FA Trophy exit Blyth went on to win the Dryborough’s Northern League title by a handsome 14 points losing only twice in the process, Peter now established as Dave Clarke’s successor clocked up 36 appearances conceding only 34 goals deservedly winning the Joel Sports Player of the Year award.
Blyth fans were surprised when Peter left the club, even more so that it was to move down to Dorset signing for GM Vauxhall Conference club Weymouth !.
Unknown Blyth fans the Terras had been plotting their move since that FA Trophy replay at Bath back in January, Northampton manager Graham Carr, who had previously managed Weymouth had tipped off Weymouth manager Stuart Morgan about Peter’s performances and advised him to travel up to Bath to ‘see for himself’.
Having been impressed they monitored Peter for rest of the season and once the season had finished Morgan himself rang Peter:
“I received a phone call for Weymouth manager Stuart Morgan saying he had seen me play at Bath in the Trophy and was interested in signing me. I wasn’t on a contract at Blyth so decided to make the move South, plus at the time they were a Conference side and it was another step up for me”.
The move meant Peter giving up his job as an Installation Engineer for a Gaming Company because the Terras were a full-time set up and offered him a £160pw contract:
“We were full-time at Weymouth with the like of Andy Townsend, Steve Claridge, Shaun Teale & Tony Agana going on to become pro’s, so it was a great opportunity”.
Peter had company on the south coast with Blyth’s flying winger Tony Dawson also signing for the ambitious GM Vauxhall Conference club.
Peter instantly made a big impression on the south coast winning rave reviews for his performances and began attracting attention of league clubs, his stock grew even further on the evening of Wednesday 21st October 1987 when Weymouth played Manchester United in an Official Opening game of their brand new Wessex Stadium.
A very experienced United team containing the likes of Chris Turner, Arthur Albiston, Kevin Moran, Norman Whiteside, Brian McClair, Remi Moses, Jesper Olsen & Bryan Robson were beaten 1-0 in a packed ground with Peter very much the star performer.
Having kept 13 clean sheets in 18 league games Weymouth knew they would struggle to hold on to their star man, the board had drawn up a plan on how to deal with the attention Peter was attracting and it eventually came down to 2 clubs were chasing his signature.
Manager Stuart Morgan used his column in the programme for their Boxing Day clash with Bath City to state:
“It seems certain at the time of going to press that we will be losing the talented Peter Guthrie to one of the First Division giants, and today could very well be his last appearance for us at the Wessex Stadium.”
Rumors of the impending move had circulated among Weymouth supporters with the asking fee being the main talking point, aware of the rumors Morgan tried to put the supporters in the picture:
“It is a great tribute to his undoubted ability that today will be only his 19th League appearance for us and if the transfer goes through it is going to break all sorts of records”.
“I hope you all have managed to put yourself in my shoes for the past couple of week, and if you have I’m sure you will understand the turmoil I have gone through in trying to come to terms with the fact that I cannot possibly hold on to Peter when taking everything into consideration.
I’ve said all along that the deal would be as waste of time to all our ambitions if we never received that amount of money that I quoted, a figure that was laughed at originally, but a figure we have finally agreed on with the clubs involved, which again is a big tribute to ‘Guthers’ himself”.
The deal was indeed a record breaker as predicted but despite interest from other clubs it came down to a 2 way battle for his signature. Peter’s hometown club Newcastle United making the 1st serious inquiry they desperate to sign him, manager Willie McFaul traveled to meet the manager & secretary at a local Weymouth hotel and was confident a deal could be done despite not liking the asking price however an inquiry was made by Tottenham Hotspur and they agreed to pay the asking price of £100,000!.
The Weymouth secretary & manager travelled up to London and the deal was agreed at a meeting held at the Spurs training ground with the Spurs secretary and manager Terry Venables.
A move to the capital was Peter preferred choice:
“In the end it was a straight choice between Newcastle and Spurs. It was a difficult choice but in the end I felt I made the right decision.”
The deal was concluded quickly with the fee of £100,000 was indeed being a record paid for a Non League player back in December 1988.
It was a truly phenomenal rise through the ranks by any body’s standards, having only played 36 games for Blyth and 29 for Weymouth suddenly Peter was a full-time professional at Tottenham Hotspur and in doing so became Terry Venables 1st signing as Spurs manager !.
Naturally the deal caught the media’s attention including interview in 80’s football magazine Shoot, in which Peter spoke of his meteoric rise:
“From Blyth I went to Weymouth and after only five months Spurs came in for me. I thought that playing in the Vauxhall Conference would put me back in the shop window, but I never expected to get a League club so soon – and certainly not one as big as Spurs. My hometown club Newcastle also came in for me but, even though I’m a Geordie through and through, I felt there would be too much pressure on me in the North East”.
With the press picking up on Peter’s meteoric rise to fame it led to a scramble for news on him and one of the most popular stories that did the rounds was that he was originally a striker who only went in-goal when the keeper was injured during a game, doing so well he just continued to play there, while it was true the versions of the tale varied wildly as it was used over the years.
It was initially reported that his first experience as a goalkeeper was with the Spartans while some versions stated he was a striker for Blyth when the injured keeper incident happened !.
However they were all wide of the mark, as Peter had last been a striker when playing for a works team in the early 80’s:
“I started as a centre forward with Sterling Winthrops on a Saturday but ended up in goal after an injury to our keeper half way through the season. My career as a centre forward was now over as I enjoyed playing between the sticks a lot more.”
After joining Spurs Peter was immediately loaned out to Fourth Division Swansea City to gain some league experience, under the guidance of manager Terry Yorath Peter played 14 times as The Swans won promotion to the Third Division through the inaugural play off’s.
Despite returning to Spurs after the loan and training with the first team even featuring in the clubs official 1989/1990 team photo things didn’t work out for Peter at White Hart Lane and legendary Barnet Chairman Stan Flashman coughed up £60,000 for his services. Working under guidance of manager Barry Fry however despite making 18 appearances back in the Vauxhall Conference but his performances weren’t as good as his previous experience of top flight Non League football and after making a couple of howlers at Underhill he came under pressure from the fans:
”The move turned out not so good as I had hoped for, I had a nightmare on the field. Barry Fry was brilliant and he tried everything for me to regain my confidence but eventually I was sold to Bournemouth”.
Playing under Bournemouth manager Harry Redknapp in the 3rd Division Peter made 10 appearances for the Cherries before Republic of Ireland keeper Gerry Peyton regained his fitness and in doing so ending Peter’s time in the first team.
At the end of the 1990/91 season Peter left Bournemouth and with no offers from other clubs he decided to take up an offer he had received from ‘over seas’, while at Bournemouth Peter had been played with and been coached by Tony Pulis who was back then player/coach at Dean Court.
Pulis had played in Hong Kong in 1981 for Happy Valley AA and still had contacts in the Far East.
Tony Pulis lined up a move to Hong Kong First Division League for Sing Tao Sports Club, Peter initially signed on a 3-month probation period and once again made such an impression he ended up playing for the now defunct club for 2 years.
Despite initially struggling with the heat & humidity playing in China Peter enjoyed his spell with Sing Tao and was selected for the League XI in 1992 for the Marlborough Cup , which they won beating Young Boys Berne & Partizan Belgrade both on penalties.
He even took up his former role as a striker in March 1993 for the Viceroy Cup Quarter Final. Once again the Hong Kong press carried the story about his switch from striker to keeper and unsurprisingly ex-pat Hong Kong journalist Jeremy Walker got the details wrong in his article:
- The last time Guthrie played in the forward line was in 1987 with English non-league side Blyth Spartans. Guthrie played as a striker all of his career in non-league football in the northeast of England and went in-goal during a game for Whickham in 1986 only when the original goalkeeper became injured.
He was transferred from Blyth to Weymouth as a goalkeeper in the 1987-88 season and became the record transfer for a non-league player going into the professional league when Spurs paid GBP 100,000 for him midway through the 1987-88 season.
Interviewed for the article Peter stated: ”It’s going to be an interesting challenge but very difficult because the last time I played centre-forward, Nelson had two eyes.
”Hopefully, I can add a bit of height and bite to the attack because we are generally quite a small team”.
In the summer of 1993, aged 33, Peter retired from the professional game and returned home to the UK taking up a job as a store supervisor in a local Asda supermarket. GM Vauxhall Conference club Gateshead snapped him up, he made his debut on 21st August in a 2-2 draw at the International Stadium.
Peter went on to make 9 appearances then moved on to play for Whitley Bay before a phone call from an old friend from Hong Kong tempted him back out to the China again, he signed for Hong Kong Rangers.
Speaking upon his return: “I came to Hong Kong in 1991 and played for Sing Tao for two years but it didn’t really work out” .
“Winning the Marlboro Cup was great but I didn’t really know Hong Kong ways and got into a few problems with my club. “I went back to England and got a job at an Asda supermarket back home near Newcastle. I was playing part-time football for Whitley Bay, just for pocket-money really, and I thought my professional football career was over”.
The friend from his spell at Sing Tao, Lam Tai-fai, was now the owner of Rangers and he invited Peter back for the 1994/95 season, and it proved to be a success as they went on to win 2 cups in his 3 season at Hong Kong Rangers, who were founded in 1958 by Scottish ex-pat Ian Petrie who named the team after his favorite team from Glasgow.
Peter reveled in the confidence Lam showed in him and after 3 good years at Rangers he moved onto fellow First Division side Happy Valley AA when Lam took over the Kowloon Bay club:
“I had three good years at Rangers, when we won two cups, and now I’ve followed Mr Lam to Happy Valley, where have a very good team,”
Winning the League title qualified them for the Asian Cup Winners Cup, they were drawn against the Maldives, and through financial constraints Happy Valley had to play both legs away in the Maldives !.
It was at Happy Valley where Peter really made name for himself and in 1998 he was almost an automatic choice for the Hong Kong League XI squad for the annual Lunar New Year tournament. The Carlsberg Cup (formerly the Marlborough Cup) had been revamped in 1994, the competition now had National teams invited to take part and not club sides or Under 21 teams. 2 of his teammate in the League XI were former team mates from his days playing in the UK, Tim O’Shea played in the same Spurs Reserve side and former Aston Villa defender Shaun Teale who played with Peter at Weymouth.
However the coaches decisions to use only foreigners didn’t go down well with the locals initially: “Our coach has coached at the highest level and he instilled confidence in us. He got together a group of players who can play well if-they do as asked, we stuck by his game plan, and it worked. The coach might come under some fire for using only foreign players but he knew what he wanted. What he got was 11 foreigners who battled for our lives.”
It provided Peter with his career highlight and the ‘game of his life’ when they beat World Cup qualifiers Chile in front of a full house of 72,000 with Peter rightly winning Man of the Match for his outstanding performance as the Hong Kong outfit pulled off the best result ever in the annual tournament, interviewed in the Hong Kong Standard the following day: “I’d say it has to be the highlight of my career.”
“Being signed for Spurs was a big moment and I was in the League XI which won this tournament in 1992, when it was the Marlboro Cup but beating Chile? .
This was the national side which goes to France in five months to compete in the World Cup.”
“We were up against players who are going all out to impress their coach and get into the World Cup squad, but we won 3-1, and deservedly so.”
And after the first reaction to an all-foreign League XI the locals got behind the team:
“What I enjoyed most was that the Hong Kong people got behind us. Even with no Chinese players in the team, they were all for us, and that gets the adrenaline flowing.It pumped us all up and we would have given anything and everything not to concede another goal. The crowd was magnificent.”
Naturally the Hong Kong Standard carried the now obligatory tale of Peter having played as a striker, this time claiming he had played as a striker for the Spartans for ‘several years’!
- Guthrie was a centre-forward for England non-League side Blyth Spartans for several years before acting as stand-in goalkeeper one day when the regular goalkeeper was injured.
Having played in China for over 10 years Peter became a well know figure in the football scene that was awash with foreigners he even made 2 adverts for Malborough Cigarettes (which didn’t go down well with his mother !) and was also invited to audition for their version of Match of the Day which showed English League games but by his own admission failed miserably !.
In 2002 Peter finally returned to the UK for good:
“Playing regular 1st team football and the social life was brilliant in such a vibrant country but I’d had enough.”
“I had the opportunity to stay in China as a coach but having thoroughly enjoyed his life in Hong Kong he decided it was time to come home ”.
Upon returning home he took & passed the PCV driving exam and worked at Newcastle Airport for 10 years.
Peter played at Bedlington Terriers of and on before finally hanging up his gloves in 2006.
Peter moved to Durham in 2011 after getting married and decided to get a job closer to home as a coach driver for Lees of Durham, when time allows still turns out in a local Over 40′s league.
In September 2013 Blyth Spartans AFC were once again back in his safe hands when he became the teams coach driver, with Lees providing the team coach for away games, he was the appointed driver for a midweek away game at Stocksbridge in Sheffield.
With it having been 27 years since he played for the Spartans, Peter was surprised to have been recognised, but admitted it was nice to be remembered after all these years.
Born on 10th October 1961 in Newcastle, making him 27 when he signed for Spurs Peter was certainly a late comer to the professional game and while his career in this country might not have taken off as he’d hoped, but he certainly made up for it on the other side of the world:
“Seeing all of Asia including Japan, Maylasia, Singapore, Cambodia, Brunei, South Korea and Indonesia and getting paid for it, I was very lucky to do all of that. “.
Peter certainly had an eventful and far-flung career, crossing paths with some of the games biggest names such as Terry Venables, Barry Fry, Paul Gascoigne & Chris Waddle but it all started from humble beginnings owing a massive gratitude of debt to an injured works team goalkeeper !.
- Credits & Thank you’s:
Jeff Young, who back in 1986 was a supporter but in 2013 was the clubs kit man who spotted Peter as the new team coach driver and initiated the interview.
The supporters of Weymouth FC who were very helpful with information on one of the favourite former players:
and of course massive thank you Peter himself for being so help with information & images on his career.