The story of Blyth Spartans 30 years in the second oldest football league in the world.
The Northern League was the stable competition needed having spent the past 7 seasons’ playing in 4 different leagues!, however the club had to turned from Semi Professional to Amateur to gain entry although the upside being it give entry to the famous FA Amateur Cup.
After 34 years in the North Eastern League, 1964 saw the league fold for good there was no revival as there had been in 1960, the NEL had operated since 1906 when Newcastle United ‘A’ were the 1st ever Champions of the 10 team league.
The NEL ran until 1958 but financial difficulties saw it disappear for 2 seasons before returning in 1960/61 as the Northern Counties League, in the intervening years Blyth spent 2 seasons in the Midland League with fellow NEL clubs South Shields, Ashington, North Shields, Horden CW, Consett, Spennymoor United, Stockton.
The strength of the NEL was shown instantly in 1958/59 with 6 of the top 8 being former NEL clubs (2nd place Ashington pushed 4 times Champions Peterborough United all the way to the title. A year later the Posh won a 5th successive title and were accepted into the Football League 4th Division.)
After another 5th place finish in 59/60 it was announced that due to financial problems the Midland League would fold, Blyth along with; Annfield Plain, Horden CW, Ashington, North Shields, Scarborough, Consett, South Shields, Gateshead & Stockton joined the new Northern Counties League finishing 3rd as North Shields won the 10 club league.
In 1961-62 Darlington, Carlisle United & Workington’s Reserve sides joined the league as Blyth finished 9th. 1962/63 saw the Spartans improve to 4th place finish but the 3 Reserves sides & Champions Scarborough moved to the Midland League. The 63/64 campaign ran with only 8 teams but somehow Blyth & Consett still managed to duplicate a fixture!. Having beaten Consett 6-2 at Croft Park on 14th September then 6-0 at Belle Vue on 5th October the clubs managed to play each other again at Croft Park on 4th January!,
Blyth won the 3rd meeting 2-1 only for game to be to be expunged from the records, how a fixture was duplicated when only 14 games were played is unknown but it was no surprise when the league folded in May 1964 never to return again.
Founded in 1889 the Northern League is the oldest surviving league outside the Football League along with North Shields the Spartans submitted an application, the league was open to new clubs Whitley Bay joined in 1958 & Spennymoor 2 years later, but it was far from cut and dry for Blyth.
The board of directors produced a brochure outlining why the club should be admitted and sent one to each of the Northern League’s members; it took two ballots by the AGM for the decisions to go Blyth’s way. The first ballot was to decide if they should expand the league by 2 teams, which was passed by 1 vote!. The next ballot was for which of the 4 new applicants got the 2 new places, the applicants were: Blyth, North Shields, Stockton & Consett plus the bottom 2 clubs South Bank & Durham were applying for re-election.
Despite the brochure stating the benefits of voting for the Spartans it didn’t appear to win over the members, the Spartans only just scrapped through by 1 vote!. South Bank & Durham were unanimously re-elected with 16 & 15 votes respectively, North Shields were accepted with 13 votes and Blyth took the final place with 9 votes over Stockton who polled 8 votes while Consett got 7, consequently Stockton & Consett were accepted into the Wearside League.
As expected the clubs inaugural season was a struggle, manager Jim Turney had to overhaul the playing staff releasing the professional players. The new side won only 4 of their 34 games to finish bottom with only 10 points (13 points adrift of 2nd bottom Shildon) it still is the lowest points tally by the club in any season and is also the only time the club have finished bottom of any league.
– There have only ever been two 2nd bottom finishes, some 82 years apart; in 1929/30 finished 2nd bottom of the North Eastern League First Division then in 2011/12 the 2nd bottom finish in the Conference North saw the club lose its coveted place in the Conference set up.
Blyth Spartans 1st ever NL team photo, the new shirts for the new season was the 1st time ever the club shirts carried a crest.
Ken Duffell scorer of club’s 1st ever NL goal.
Blyth’s 1st ever Northern League game was a Croft Park on 22nd August 1964 when Tow Law provided the opposition it brought a 0-2 defeat.
Blyth team that day was:
M Ingoe, JW Embleton, JM Simpson, E Kelly, K Dodd, SH Bell, D Nixon, R Smith,
K Duffell, A King, N. Hetherington.
The clubs 1st NL goal was scored by Ken Duffell in a 1-2 defeat at Evenwood on 29th August, (it came in the 3rd game of the season after two successive 0-2 defeats). 7 straight defeats had seen 20 goals conceded and it could have been far worse, having lost 0-7 at Whitley Bay on 5th September the Seasiders came to Croft Park in the return fixture 11 days later and were 1-7 up only for the game to be abandoned in the 85th minute due to poor light!. The first victory didn’t come until 19th September when Durham City were beaten 4-0 at Croft Park with a Ken Duffell brace & 1 each from Dodd & Easton, it wasn’t a sign of things to come 7 consecutive defeats followed and the clubs 1st ever Northern League Cup tie also brought defeat at local rivals North Shields when Frank Rankin scored the clubs 1st ever League Cup goal in a 1-2 defeat. The clubs 1st ever NL penalty was scored by Jackie Embleton in a 2-6 defeat at Stanley United on 14th November. A run of 11 defeats in last 12 games shipping 41 goals saw the Spartans concede a total of 105 goals, it was the most the club had conceded in a league season since 1925/26, joining Durham City on 105 in 1960/61 as the most conceded in the NL since South Bank let in 129 in 1957/58, the paltry 38 goals scored is still to this day the fewest the club have ever scored in a league campaign.
In 1970 the league expanded again to 20 clubs, Northern Premier League club Ashington were accepted the Colliers had only played 1 season in the NPL after 3 years in the North Regional League, Consett AFC joined after 6 seasons in the Wearside League.
In 1972 the Blyth board submit a proposal for a 2nd Division to be added, it had been a regular topic at League Management Committee meetings since the 1920’s,
the proposal was passed by 10 votes to 8 and new member clubs were sought.
Several clubs made enquirers but only 11 clubs made applications, (Alnwick Town, Bedlington CW, Blue Star, Horden CW, Newton Aycliffe, Norton CCT, Seaham UDC, Wallsend Town, Whickham, Wingate, Washington) however the committee decided there was insufficient numbers to make it viable and the plans were scrapped.
It was another 9 years before the Second Division finally returned after a 85 year absence, the original Second Division only ran for 3 seasons; 1897/1898, 1989/1899 & 1899/1900 before the ‘trial’ was deemed a failure and the league was disbanded in 1900.
The Championship trophy from the original Second Division was recycled and became the League Challenge Cup Trophy that is still used to this day, the new Second Division Championship Trophy is actually the old Challenge Cup from the Semi Professional North Eastern League which was found in a storeroom at the FA Headquarters in Lancaster Gate and fully restored to be used for the new Second Division trophy.
The new Second Division was far more successful although there was still apprehension from the Management Committee they initally went against the idea but the clubs fully backed the idea. The appeal of the new division attraction to clubs from further a field than it had in 1972, 4 teams came from the Northern Alliance, 3 from the Wearside League, 2 from the Teesside League and 1 each from the Carlisle & District League and Harrogate & District League.
Founder Members for the inaugural 1983/83 season were Alnwick Town, Bedlington Terriers, Billingham Town, Darlington Reserves, Esh Winning, Gretna, Hartlepool United Reserves, Northallerton Town, Norton & Stockton Ancients, Peterlee Newtown, Ryhope Community Association.
The Spartans would compete in the Northern League for 30 years after a difficult first few seasons they forced their way into the title race season after season.
The 70’s saw a battle with Spennymoor United to become the dominant force, from 1972 to 1979 either United or the Spartans won the title the rivalry was so close that in 1973/74 they tied at the top on 64 points and for the 1st time since 1946/47 a Play Off game was needed to decide who were crowned Champions.
Unlike the 46/47 Play Off when Bishop Auckland beat Crook Town 5-1, as expected it was a far closer affair with Spennymoor edging it 2-1 to take the trophy off the Spartans.
1974/74 unbeaten League Champions.
The Spartans response to losing the title on a Play Off was truly spectacular, the title was brought back to Croft Park in style finishing 10 points clear of their rivals United. Remarkably the Spartans went the entire season unbeaten, it was the 1st time it had been achieved since Shildon did it in 1936/37, it was the 4th time in the Leagues history it had done. It was first achieved by Middleborough Ironopolis in 1892/93 then in 1898/99 Bishop Auckland achieved it, however they were with significantly smaller leagues the those previous occasions.
Still to this day it hasn’t been achieved since, the closest a team has come was in 2004/2005 when Dunston Federation Brewery won the title losing only 1 game in a 21 team league.
- 1971/72 season actually saw Blyth compete in two league competitions!. That season saw the inagural Vaux Floodlight League, a midweek competition for clubs on Tyneside, while the idea was a good one supported by the clubs the timings of the games proved difficult. Spartans played 72 games that season with runs to the 3rd Round of the FA Cup & the Semi Final of the FA Amateur Cup and staging of the VFL games lead to the club withdrawing from the competition after only 3 games:
13th October drew 1-1 with Gateshead at home played 3 days before an Amateur Cup tie, 17th November lost 1-5 at South Shields played 3 days before FA Cup 1st Round tie at Crewe Alexandra & 24th November beat Whitley Bay 3-2 away played 3 days before an Amateur Cup tie.
Blyth would retain the title in 1975/76 before Spennymoor went on to win the title for 3 consecutive seasons 76/77, 77/78 & 78/79 becoming the 5th different club to achieve 3 successive titles, previous 3 times winners were:
Ironopolis 1890/91, 1891/92 & 1892/93
Shildon 1934-35, 1935-36 & 1936-37
Newcastle United “A” 1902-03, 1903-04 & 1904-05
Bishop Auckland 1953/54, 1954/55 & 1955/56
Captain Tommy Dixon recieves the NL trophy for a record 5th time from Chairman Arthur Clark.
Commercial Manager Mike Turnbull, Chairman Jim Turney along with players Geoff Peters, Maurice Hepworth, Dave Mitchenson Director Brian Morgan and defender Jeff Peters proudly display the 1982 trophy haul.
Those 3 successive titles by Bishops could have been even more had it not been for a surprise 1952/53 title win for Crook Town claiming their 1st title in 1926/27, (even more commendable having finished the previous season 9th!). Bishops then won league the following 3 seasons meaning Crook denied Bishops what could have been 7 straight Northern League titles, still they had became the only club to have achieved it twice.
Always up for a challenge the Spartans set about breaking all those records winning 5 successive titles from 1979/80 to 1983/84, Blyth were denied a 6th successive title by Bishop Auckland having to settle for runners up spot for a 4th time.
The feat of 5 titles in a row was then equalled by Bedlington Terriers from 1997/98 to 2001/02 and like the Spartans missed a 6th title finishing Runners Up in 2002/03.
After back to back titles for Bishops, the title was brought back to Croft Park in 1986/87 finishing 14 points clear of 2nd place.
The title was retained in 87/88 for what was to be the last time the club won the Northern League title, that season proved to be a pivotal one for the League.
The league had lost members before over the years most notably in 73/74 when Stanley United withdrew only 3 days before that start of the season but 1988/89 was a pivotal for the Management Committee when 2 of its biggest clubs tendered their resignations at the AGM, Bishop Auckland (who had finished 6th) and Whitley Bay (who had finished 4th) wanted to join the Northern Premier League.
The discussions on the Leagues stance about joining the ‘pyramid’ system had rumbled for a few years and it had come to the point where clubs actively sort ‘promotion’ to the pyramid and were forced to resign to achieve this.
It was a massive blow to the League having lost 2 clubs the League decided to increase its membership to 40 clubs by adding 4 new clubs to the Second Division with 4 clubs being promoted instead of the usual 2 to make up for the loss of Bishops & Whitley Bay. Washington, who had finished 4th in the ballot piping just Wingate to the final place, became the 100th different club to play in the Northern League.
The resignation of Bishops & Whitley set the ball rolling, having finished a lowly 18th in 88/89 North Shields tendered their resignation and joined the Northern Counties East League with the intention of gaining promotion to the NPL through the pyramid system.
In 1990 talks were held about were the NL would fit into the pyramid, but the proposal of being placed on a par with the Northern Counties East League didn’t go down well with the NL and the delays forced the hand of another heavy weight NL club eyeing progress and Spennymoor jumped ship to the join the Northern Counties East.
Seaham Red Star & Gretna also declared an interesting in leave the league, after ground grading by the NECL Seaham eventually decided to remain where they were and Gretna declined an offer of a place in the Northern Counties League, however they eventually left for the NPL after winning the 91/92 title.
In 1992 it had been agreed that the champions would be promoted to the NPL, Whitby Town claimed their 1st ever NL title but somewhat unsurprisingly when it came to the crunch they were to be denied their rightful place in the NPL after an almighty argument broke out between the 2 leagues over the lack of teams being relegated into the NL and the relevant ground grading. It was resolved 2 days prior to the start of the new campaign and despite appeals Whitby were denied their promotion. 4 years later Whitby would finally gain the promotion they had been denied, wining the league again in 1996/97 becoming the 1st team to leave the NL as Champions.
Pre season team photo before what proved to be the clubs final Northern League season.
The 1993/94 season had started with Blyth’s new chairman indicating that if things were in place behind the scenes at Croft Park the club would consider promotion to the NPL if they were to win the league.
While the Northern League had provided much needed stable home the club since 1965 the origins of the clubs departure could be traced back to 1979/80 when the Football Alliance was formed. The Northern & Southern Premier leagues merged to form one league that it was hoped would eventually see the winners automatically promoted to the Football League rather than going through the much maligned election/re-election system.
It had been intended that 3 leagues would ‘merge’ to create the top division, the Isthmian League were offered to become part of the Alliance Premier but refused unhappy at the perceived ‘creaming off’ of each league’s top teams to create the division, within 2 years their top 2 teams Enfield & and Dagenham defected to the APL and it was not until 1985 that the Isthmian League champions were given a promotion place to the newly renamed Football Conference
The clubs standing in the Non League game had become such that they were offered a place in the inaugural season (the only club outside the NPL & SPL to be offered a place) but after discussions within the club it was rejected on the basis of geography, the club would be offered a place in the Alliance on 3 separate occasions.
While there was little doubt within club that the team could compete on the field with the clubs in the APL, the fact that the most northern club was Scarborough and the other closest being Barrow the travelling involved would be to prohibitive for the club to sustain, a point the club felt emphasised by the prospects of away games at Weymouth & Yeovil!.
At the time many thought it was a wise decision because the club was on a high, regularly beating clubs from higher leagues and doing well in the FA Cup & FA Trophy but as the years passed the clubs fortunes on the field started to wane.
Supporters feared the club was becoming stale in a league that offered no hope of promotion and as the NL stood firmly to their beliefs they should be placed higher than was on offer the league slipped down the pyramid system to level 9.
With the clubs entry into the Northern League going right down to the wire back in 1964 it was no surprise that the clubs departure was equally as dramatic, having blown a handsome 17 point lead at top of the table Durham piped the Spartans to the title and the automatic place in the NPL.
However in the final weeks of the season news broke that Ferens Park hadn’t gained the required grading level and the NPL were not going to allow Durham to ground share, Croft Park had gained the regquired grading and it soon became apparent that Blyth would be offered the promotion as runners up. Durham were not at all happy they appealed but the NPL were not changing their stance. Durham had been planning for a new ground for years and works started in June 1994 but building problems meant it wasn’t finished until August 1995
Craig Liddle’s shirt & the match ball from the club’s final NL game at Ferryhill.
So after 30 season’s 10 titles, 2,450 goals and 19 managers Blyth Spartans left the Northern League.
Blyth’s 1,108th and final game was at Ferryhill Athletic on Saturday 30th April 1994, it ended 1-1 with Steve Pyle scoring the clubs 2,450th and final NL goal.
The last ever team Blyth fielded in the Northern League was:
Paul O’Connor, Craig Liddle, Gary Hays, Keith Mills, Shaun Dunn, Warren Teasdale, Kevin Caizley,
Tony Burgess, Dave Hallam, Steve Pyle, Don Peattie.
Subs: Eddie Jenkins, John Terrel.
While Blyth’s first and last games in the NL were not as dramatic as others the opposition was somewhat fitting, for Ferryhill along with Tow Law and Whitby Town were the only 3 clubs Blyth played in everyone of their 30 seasons.
Blyth’s final involvement in the Northern League was an appearance in a 7th Challenge Cup Final against Northallerton played at the Welfare Ground, Brandon on 11th May which Blyth lost 0-2, the team that night was: Paul O’Connor, Eddie Jenkins, Warren Teasdale, Keith Mills, Shaun Dunn, John Terrel, Paul Donaghy, Tony Burgess, Don Peattie, Steve Pyle, Garry Middleton. Sub: Kevin Caizley.
By the time the Final was played, 11 days after the league programme finished, Blyth’s place in the Northern Premier League was all but confirmed only ratification at the NPL AGM was needed. The club had already moved to prepare for the new adventure appointing Harry Dunn as manager for the new season.
The Spartans ended their 30 year run with the following record:
Played 1,108 Won 654 Drew 208 Lost 242 Scored 2450 Conceded 1337
winning a total of 1,981 points.
Jim Turney admires another NL title trophy.
During the clubs 30 years the club evolved as had been intended as did Croft Park floodlights were installed in 1966, the first ever competitive game played under floodlights at Croft Park was a Northern League game on 10th October 1966 which Whitley Bay won 2-1. A new cantilever stand built in 1972 after fire destroyed the old wooden stand a year earlier and a new clubhouse was built by Jim Turney’s building company in 1974.
Having been a board member while manager Turney was the natural successor to the outgoing Chairman Tommy James in 1968, Blyth Spartans effectively became ‘his club’ for 20 years before Turney officially stepped down as chairman 1988, despite John Hethrington taken over Turney was till very much in charge as club President. Bill Cook was appointed chairman in January 1989 but the clubs fortunes were in decline long serving secretary George Watson stepped down a year later, in 1991 former board member Dave Monaghan replaced Cook as chairman but lasted only a matter of weeks resigning due to ‘family reasons’ just as the worse cash crisis since the 30’s hit the club. Lack of sponsorship and falling crowds saw the club coffers down to the bare bones, the players took a 50% pay cut for 3 weeks and made their own way to away games to help save money as manager shrewd manager Ronnie Walton kept the team going. A sponsor was found in the form of cult North East comic ‘VIZ’, the £10,000 deal was a desperately needed lifeline.
Jim Turney signs the new sponsorship deal with Northumbria Motor Company on top a double decker parked inside Croft Park.
-The club had 4 shirt sponsor during it’s life in the NL, the clubs first ever shirt sponsor came back in 1982 when ‘Universal Building Society’ was added to the famous Bukta tops worn in the 78’s cup run, a year later a new kit was introduced when a new deal was announced with the Mercantile Building Society, that deal lasted until 1988 when Northumbria Buses took over as shirt sponsor, the tops stayed the same style but carried the companies ‘N’ logo.
Jim Telford came in 1993 with the main objective to address the club’s ailing finances and sort out the administration side, having achieved the main objectives he wasn’t going to pass up the chance to move the club forward when the opportunity arose despite it happening a year earlier than they had initially planned citing the supporters deserved it “having endure Northern League football for far too long”!.
While the chairmanship of the club had been in safe hands despite the success the managers position was far less stable, 19 managers were appointed. There were 5 caretakers, 2 joint managers (1 of them being a joint manager & a player) another 2 players managers, 10 of the those even played in the NL for the club & 3 managers had 2 spells in charge.
The managers in those 30 years were:
Jim Turney, Tony Knox (player manager), Billy Fenwick (caretaker), Peter Flaherty (caretaker), Jackie Marks, Allan Jones, Billy Bell, Eddie Alder & Billy Fenwick (joint managers Alder was also a player), Alan O’Neill, Brian Slane (player manager),
Jackie Marks, Bob Elwell, Jon Connolly (player manager), Mick Dagless, Peter Feenan,
Jim Pearson, Dave Clarke, Tommy Dixon, Steve Carney (caretaker), Ronnie Walton,
Nigel Walker (caretaker), Peter Feenan & Dave Robertson (caretaker).
1977/78 saw the Spartans famously reach the 5th Round of the FA Cup and also won the Debenhams Cup, the club donatated £1,000 from their winnings to the League which the management committee used to start a good conduct award scheme.
The league also changed dramatically over the 30 years with new clubs, promotion & relegation, introduction of floodlights but possibly the biggest change was the introduction of sponsorship, while the league may have not had a sponsor for 77/78 season there was still a sponsorship in place from Radio Luxembourg, it provided Spartans with one of there lesser known trophies. The station awarded a trophy and £208 to the club who scored the most goal in the league season and despite finishing runners up Blyth outscored champions Spennymoor by 4 goals scoring a total of 107 goals to claim the trophy.
The league had 4 different sponsors during Blyth’s involvement, the ground breaking Rothmans deal started in 1974/75 and saw the introduction of 3 points for a win with a host of other financial incentives for clubs, the deal ran for 3 seasons before Rothmans ended all and any association with Football in January 1977 leaving the league without a sponsor for 2 seasons. After running for 1977/78 & 1978/79 without sponsorship in 1979/80 Drybroughs of Edinburgh started an initial 3 deal worth £18,000 a season to the league and was reputedly one of the best deals outside the Football League, the breweries association with the league eventually ran for 8 years. In 1988/89 it became the Skol Northern League for 2 seasons before running for the next 3 seasons without a sponsor, Blyth final season 1993/94 it was the Federation Brewery League.
Over the 30 years Spartans only had NL 4 games abandoned, 2 away games were abandoned due to floodlight failure while 2 was halted at Croft Park:
5th September 1965 Blyth were 1-7 down to Whitley Bay only for the game to be abandoned in the 85th minute!. 19th August 1980 away at Horden Colliery Welfare abandoned at 0-0 dues to floodlight failure. On 2nd October 1979 a home game with Evenwood was abandoned at 1-1 due to fog. 27th September 1988 saw the away game at Easington Colliery Welfare abandoned at 0-0 due to floodlight failure.
Blyth played 42 different clubs over the 30 years, the following teams were already in the league when Blyth joined:
Spennymoor United, Evenwood, Bishop Auckland, Whitley Bay, Crook Town, Durham City, Ferryhill Athletic, Stanley United, Whitby, Willington, Shildon, Billingham Synthonia,
North Shields, Penrith, South Bank, Shildon, Willington, Tow Law, West Auckland.
– 3 clubs joined the League after Blyth gained membership:
Consett, Ashington & Horden CW.
Blyth came up against 21 clubs who gained promotion from the Second Division:
Gretna, Peterlee NT, Brandon United, Bedlington Terriers, Hartlepool United Reserves, Newcastle Blue Star, Easington CW, Billingham Synthonia, Guisborough Town Stockton, Seaham Red Star, Billingham Town, Whickham, Alnwick Town, Consett, Murton, Northallerton Town, Easington Colliery, Langley Park, Dunston Federation Brewery, Eppleton Colliery Welfare.
As well as winning 10 league title, Blyth finished runners up on 5 occasions and won the League Cup 5 times as well as being Runners up twice, also in 1981 the league introduced a Charity Shield style cup competition with the previous seasons League winners taking on the League Cup winners in a season opener, Blyth won the JR Cleator Cup 5 times.
*Jim R. Cleator was a former South Bank FC player & official who later served the NL as Chairman & President and had passed away in December 1980.
Clubs NL honours & stats:
1972/73, 1974/75, 1975/76, 1979/80, 1980/81, 198/82, 1982/83, 1983/84, 1986/87, 1987/88.
League Runners Up:
1971/72, 1973/74, 1977/78, 1984/85, 1993/94.
League Cup Winners:
1972/73, 1977/78, 1978/79, 1984/85, 1991/92.
League Cup Runners Up: 1983/84, 1993/94.
Ian Mutrie fires home in the 1978 League Cup Final win.
League Cup record: Played 85
Won 49 games outright (1 AET)
Lost 26 (1 AET)
Drew 10 then won 3 on penalties
Biggest win 7-1 v South Bank 6/10/1971
Heaviest defeat 1-5 v Spennymoor 30/9/1970
The 7 League Cup Finals were:
07/05/1973 beat Spennymoor United 2-1 at Crook
09/05/1978 beat Willington 5-1 at North Shields
22/05/1979 beat Consett 4-3 at Spennymoor
05/05/1982 beat South Bank 2-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw at Bishop Auckland
03/05/1984 lost 0-2 to Horden Colliery Welfare at North Shields
05/05/1992 beat Consett 1-0 at Murton
11/05/1994 lost 0-2 to Northallerton Town at Brandon
JR Cleator Cup Winners:
1982, 1983, 1984, 1988, 1992.
JR Cleator Cup Runners Up:
The 7 Cleator Cup games were:
21/08/1982 beat Whitby Town 5-4 on penalties after a 0-0 draw
27/08/1983 beat Norton & Stockton Ancients 5-1
21/08/1984 beat Horden CW 3-1
11/08/1987 lost 1-3 to Spennymoor
23/08/1988 beat Billingham Synthonia 2-1
12/08/1992 beat Murton 4-1
Blyth also won 2 ‘Rest of League v. Champions’ games, losing another:
14/10/1980 lost 0-1
21/12/1976 won 4-2
17/11/1975 won 3-1
Croft Park staged 3 League Cup Finals:
1970/71 Whitley Bay 1 North Shields 0
1971/72 North Shields 0 Spennymoor 0 (Shields won replay 2-1at Ferryhill)
1980/81 Spennymoor 3 Consett 0
Croft Park also staged 7 Northern League Representative games and was the leagues lucky ground going unbeaten in every game they staged at Blyth:
01/05/1976 NL v. Rothmans Western League (NL won 2-1)
15/03/1977 NL v. FA XI (NL won 3-2)
05/04/1978 NL v. FA XI (won 3-2)
27/02/1980 NL v. FA XI (won 3-1)
05/03/1981 NL v. Scottish Junior FA XI (won 1-0)
16/05/1989 NL v. Barclays Football League XI (drew 2-2)
Other achievements as a NL club included reaching the FA Cup 5th Round in 77/78,
3rd Round in 71/72 and 2nd Round in 73/74 & 80/81.
Reached Semi Final of FA Amateur Cup in 71/72.
In 79/80 & 82/83 reached the Quarter Final of the FA Trophy.
Won the Debenhams Cup in 77/78.
Awarded Non League Team of the Year 1977/78.
Dave Clarke awarded Non League Player of the Year 1977/78.
Won Radio Luxembourg Trophy 1977/78.
During the clubs time several players gained Representative honours and 6 players gained England Semi Professional International caps:
Dave Clarke, Keith Houghton, Les Mutrie, Paul Walker, Dave Buchanan &
*To this day they are still the only NL players to gain England Semi Professional International caps.
Another goal for Brian Slane
2,450 goal were scored in the 30 seasons with the top 5 goalscorers being:
1- Brian Slane
181 goals including 11 hat tricks and 4, 5 & even a 7 goal hauls
2- Steve Pyle
107 goals including 8 hat tricks and a 5 goal haul
3- Tony McFadden
93 goals including 6 hat tricks 3 of which came in 4 goals hauls
4- Tommy Orrick
89 goals including 3 successive hat tricks
5- Ian Mutrie
60 goals including 3 hat tricks
Ian Mutrie holds the club record for scoring in the most successive league games with 13 goals in 8 successive games from 29th September until 7th November 1981.
Steve Cuggy & Steve Pyle both scored in 7 successive games while Brian Slane, Paul Ross, Terry Johnson & Tommy Orrick scored in 6.
Clubs longest unbeaten run was 40 games 17th August 1974 until 8th September 1975
Longest run without a win was 18 games from 9th January 1965 until 25th August 1965
Longest run of clean sheets was 9 games from 12th April 1975 until 6th September 1975
Playing records against all Northern League opposition:
(Key – P-played, W-won, D-drew, L-lost, F-goals for, A-goals against)
Alnwick Town – P4 W2 D0 L2 F9 A7
Ashington – P28 W9 D5 L4 F62 A25
Bedlington Terriers – P4 W3 L1 F9 A6
Billingham Synthonia – P58 W31 D9 L18 F119 A67
Billingham Town – P6 W2 D2 L2 F13 A10
Bishop Auckland – P48 W28 D9 L11 F100 A67
Blue Star – P12 W7 D5 L0 F17 A9
Newcastle Blue Star – P4 W2 D1 L1 F7 A4
Brandon United – P18 W12 D2 L4 F40 A19
Chester le Street – P14 W12 D2 L0F37 A11
Consett – P46 W34 D4 L8 F105 A35
Crook Town – P50 W34 D5 L11 F 25 A63
Dunston Federation – P2 W1 L1 F4 A3
Durham City – P8 W28 D10 L10 F107 A 50
Easington Colliery Welfare – P13* W7 D2 L3 F33 A16
*(1 game abandoned at 0-0 due to floodlight failure)
Eppleton Colliery Welfare – P2 W1 D1 F3 A3
Evenwood Town – P41* W28 D4 L8 F91 A40
*(1 game abandoned at 1-1 due to fog)
Ferryhill Athletic – P60 W36 D9 L5 F135 A65
Gretna – P18 W6 D3 L7 F31 A34
Guisborough Town – P14 W3 D5 L5 F16 A18
Hartlepool United Reserves – P4 W2 D1 L1 F10 A4
Hebburn – Played 4 won 4 F 12 A 3
Horden Colliery Welfare – P21* W12 D5 L3 F46 A19
* (1 game abandoned due to floodlight failure at 0-0)
Langley Park – P2 W1 D1 L0 F3 A2
Murton – P8 W5 D2 L1 F17 A9
North Shields – P50 W25 D18 L7 F112 A72
Northallerton Town – P7 W4 D1 L2 F8 A9
Penrith – P36 W25 D9 L2 F85 A37
Peterlee Newtown – P14 W10 D4 L0 F35 A14
Ryhope Community Association – P8 W5 D3 L0 F28 A10
Seaham Red Star – P12 W7 D1 L 4 F23 A14
Shildon – P54 W33 D8 L13 F126 A80
South Bank – P8 W35 D13 L10 F119 A48
Spennymoor United – P53* W9 D15 L19 F93 A93
*(Includes 73/74 Championship Play Off game)
Stanley United – P20 W13 D2 L5 F82 A33
Stockton – P10 W6 D3 L1 F22 A11
Tow Law Town – P60 W32 D12 L16 F126 A82
West Auckland Town – P44 W36 D3 L5 F117 A36
Whickham – P6 W3 D2 L1 F14 A7
Whitby Town – P60 W26 D12 L22 F96 A84
Whitley Bay – P47* W29 D6 L11 F97 A66
* (1 game abandoned in 85th minute with Blyth losing 1-7 due to poor light)
Willington – P38 W26 D4 L8 F119 A59
…..Life was a struggle for Blyth in their early Northern League days but the club grew and became an integral part of the League’s history and Northern League is important part of the clubs history that should never be forgotten, it helped make the club what it is today.
- Credits, Acknowledgments & Thank you’s:
Ken Sproat for images and information and of course his superb book ‘The History of Blyth Spartans’ was a crucial source of information.
Jeff Young & Kevin Tilmouth for thier memories of Blyth’s Northern League years & Kevin’s superb collection of memorabilia.
The following excellent books provided a vital source of reference & information on the NL & Blyth’s 30 year involvement:
Northern Goalfields, The Official Centenary History of the Northern League 1889-1989Northern Goalfields Revisited, The Millennium History of the Northern League
both researched, complied & written by Brian Hunt.
The following football website were used for reference & info: