Green & White Cult Heroes – Harry Mills

Every era in Blyth Spartans history has players adored and idolised by the supporters,  in the post WWII years goalkeeper Harry Mills was that player.
The supporter who went on to play for the club and became a cult hero

IMG_8406Henry Owen Mills was born in Blyth on 23rd August 1922.
It was as a 14 year old schoolboy that Harry first made his name, he was goalkeeper for the Blyth Boys side that remarkably fought its way through seven rounds of the prestigious English School Shield in the 1935/36 season.
Their run came to a galant end losing to West Ham Boys in front of 8,500 packed into Croft Park.

After leaving school Harry continued with his football, showing great promise as he progressed playing for Cambois Welfare Juniors, Shankhouse Welfare and Sleekburn A Pit Welfare.
He was offered trial by Bradford City but nothing came of it and then the outbreak of the war halted his career.

Aged 21 he enlisted and served in the Eight Army in North Africa. While serving he kept in touch with events at home receiving a monthly bundle of newspapers from his family. The Blyth News was one of those newspapers and it enable him to follow the fortunes of Blyth Shipyard FC’s great 1945/46 season in the Northern Combination.

Fighting in North Africa didn’t entirely stop his football, he did manage to play in four games the soldiers arranged on improvised desert pitches. He even traveled to Tripoli to watch an RAF versus Royal Navy showpiece game that was packed with many well known star footballers serving their country.


Harry in the back row of the famous Blyth Schools team of 1935/36.

  • It was a letter home to the sports editor of the Blyth News, Bob Thompson aka Crofter, dated June 24th 1943 in which he told of how he became a goalkeeper, and it wasn’t out of his choice!
    He told of how, while serving in North Africa he had crossed paths with a former school friend, Dickie Wilson. They recalled how their footballing careers had swapped paths one afternoon at St Wilfreds Roman Catholic School. Both played for the school junior team, Harry at outside left and Dickie as the goalkeeper.
    However one afternoon their efforts didn’t impress the sports teacher Mr Gerald Kelly. Harry admitted their ‘standard of play in those position wasn’t very high’, Mr Kelly wasn’t too impressed either and eventually swapped their positions.
    Harry stated that:
    “Any progress we have made since those good old days we owe to Mr Gerald Kelly our sports teacher, who persevered with us when others would have long since given it up on us”.
    He ended the letter saying:
    I’m just longing to get back home and play football again on Croft Park as I’m hoping to get a chance to play for the Spartans, my favourite team’.

After being demobilised in October 1945 he was signed by Brentford as an amateur, they had played throughout the war years in the London War League but Harry returned to the North East in 1946.
The letter he sent to the Blyth News proved a shrewd move, reporter Bob Thompson was a highly influential figure within the Spartans and had even run of the Reserve team before the war.
He invited Harry to play in the pre season matches, on Saturday 17th August 1946 he finally got his wish to play on Croft Park.
Harry played in the first of the traditional pre season Green and Whites against the Claret and Blues practise matches. Keeping goal for the Claret and Blues who won 7-6, several players were missing due to prior commitments, some playing cricket and others being involved in ‘professional foot handicaps’ – sprint races which were hugely popular and lucrative for the winners.

Club officials already had one keeper in mind, former Reserve and Blyth Shipyard player Billy Goulding, his family had long standing ties with the club but he wasn’t available due his cricket commitments.
That played to Harry’s advantage, on Saturday 24th August the club held its final practise match at Croft Park, some 25 players were used across the two teams as the Green and Whites won 5-0.
Harry played for the Green and Whites, who were made up of the first choice players, stealing a march on Billy Goulding who missed another practise match.

Screenshot 2021-12-09 at 06.55.37The clubs first game after reforming post war came on Saturday 31st August 1946, Harry was deservedly picked as first choice keeper playing in the 1-1 with North Shields Reserves at Croft Park while Goulding played for the Reserves in a 4-5 North East Alliance defeat at Barrington United.

Harry went onto play in the first eleven game of the season, keeping three clean sheets as the Spartans won seven of the eleven games.
Following the 2-3 Northern Alliance Cup defeat away at Ashington club officials decided to change the keepers with Billy Goulding coming into the first team and Harry playing for the Reserves.

After ten games for the Reserves his chance to play first team football again came again on Saturday 11th January 1947.
Illness ruled Billy Goulding out of the home game against West Sleekburn, Harry kept a clean sheet in the 4-0 win and kept his place for the rest of the season.
In the return game against West Sleekburn on Saturday 22nd March, he saved his first penalty for the Spartans but unfortunately his 89th minute heroics were in vain as the home side were already 3-1 up at the time!
A late equaliser by league leaders Newburn in the 2-2 Croft Park draw on Saturday 17th May, effectively ended the Spartans hopes of catching the Tynesiders and saw Harry pick up a Northern Alliance Runners Up medal in his first season with the club.

1947:481947/48 saw Blyth return to the North Eastern League with 25 year old Harry now firmly established as first choice keeper.
He played in the FA Cup for the first time on Saturday 20th September, keeping a clean sheet in the 2-0 Preliminary Round win at Birtley Town and again in 1st Qualifying Round 4-0 home win over Throckley Welfare.

The step up in level certainly brought out the best in him under guidance of the club’s new Player/Coach Joe Wilson. In the run up to the much anticipated festive fixtures Blyth won four games without Harry conceding a goal, recording 2-0, 5-0, 4-0 and 3-0 wins.
The Boxing Day derby at Ashington attracted a 8,000 crowd for the 1-1 draw, with 5,000 attending the New Years Day return game at Croft Park which the visitors won 0-4, it was only the second time ever Harry had ever let that many in in a single game!

  • IMG_8696The most bizarre goal he ever conceded came on Saturday 27th December 1947 when Blyth played Murton Colliery Welfare away.
    Trailing 0-1 from the 6th minute after the gale force wind caught a cross and blew the ball over Harry into the net, it got more bizarre in the 30th minute.
    A right wing cross was swung in, as Blyth’s experienced Player Manager Joe Wilson set himself to clear a dog ran on the pitch across the path of the ball. The ball struck the dog and deflected passed Harry into the net!.
    To the amazement of the Blyth players the referee G. Smith of County Durham awarded the goal even after their protests insisting it was Wilson who had put the ball passed Harry into the net. Blyth officials appealed the result to the Northern Eastern League’s management committee but with the only the referee’s account to available the decided the result would stand.

Ashington H.MillsBlyth officials wanted to bring Billy Fenwick back to the club in December 47 and approached his club Ashington but they wanted Harry in exchange!
Aware of others clubs interest in their star player Blyth weren’t prepared to let him leave in an exchange deal. Ashington stood firm, it was Mills for Fenwick or the deal wouldn’t happen.
It never happened, Billy Fenwick eventually handed in a transfer request to try and force through a return to Croft Park but Ashington sold selling him to North Shields instead.

Harry had become renowned for his ability and willingness to dive at players feet to retrieve the ball. However, on Saturday 31st January his bravery led to him being stretchered off!
Trailing 1-3 at home Murton CW he jumped to claim a cross, he then slipped on the muddy goalmouth as he landed. The ball landed at the feet of Murton outside left Bob Holland the far post, Harry instinctively lunged at Holland as he stabbed the ball home. The fall and subsequent lunge injured his back and after receiving treatment he had be carried off.
The injury kept him out for a fortnight, returning to the side for the 2-3 defeat at home to Workington on Saturday 14th February but he would only play three more games of the club.

Screenshot 2021-12-05 at 16.02.56In what turned out to be his 59th and last appearance for the club he saved a penalty in a 2-1 win at Consett on Saturday 28th February. In the crowd that afternoon and suitably impressed with what they had seen were officials from First Division Huddersfield Town.
However, it was Sunderland manager Bill Murray who had been the first to be impressed by Harry.
Having registered their interest with Blyth officials, Sunderland were to pass up on their ‘first refusal’ on Harry to the help another club.
Huddersfield’s Blyth born manager George Stephenson, was in need of a keeper having lost long serving Bob Hesford to an injury.
On Saturday 21st February Hesford suffered a badly broken ankle in a 0-2 defeat at Sunderland, after the game the Sunderland manager told Stephenson all about Harry Mills.
Reserve Don Clegg came in for the next game, a 1-2 home defeat to Bolton Wanderers as Stephenson sent officials up to Consett to watch Harry in action. 

IMG_8356On Tuesday 2nd March, George Stephenson rang the Spartans Chairman Bob Middleton, they struck a deal that both clubs were happy with. The reported £850 was a club record at the time, but Middleton insisted on an extra fee being paid if Harry played a certain number of first team games.
The very next day Blyth vice chairman Bob Kirkland drove Harry down to the Leeds Road ground. 
The deal was signed and the 26 year old keeper officially became a Town player on Wednesday 3rd March 1948.

Don Clegg lasted just one more game between the sticks, a 4-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield, before Harry received his call up to the first team. George Stephenson’s side had succumbed to five consecutive defeats by then and found themselves 21st in the First Division.
Harry’s debut came on Saturday 13th March in a home game with Middlesbrough and he made an immediate impact, goals from Vic Metcalfe and Albert Nightingale sealed a much needed 2-1 victory. 

IMG_8403March 1948 proved quite an eventful for him, not only signing for Huddersfield Town but five days after making this Football League debut he was back up north preparing for his ‘big day’.
On Thursday 18th March Harry married Edith Lambert at Hexham Abbey, then he was straight back down to Yorkshire to meet up with his teammates for a trip to the capital to face Charlton Athletic on the Saturday.
Town went unbeaten in his first three games as he made the No.1 spot his own, he kept four clean sheets in the next ten games. They finished the season in 19th place, four points above the drop zone.
Town were so pleased with their new player that Blyth’s secretary Roy Robertson received a cheque off Town for the agreed additional fee within a month of signing Harry rather than after the set number of appearances.

In the summer of 1948 Harry and Edith moved into a new house, the club had purchased six properties in the town for their players and Harry was given one of them.
1948:49Bob Hesford was still out injured by the time 1948/49 came around, Harry retained his place in the first team playing in the first game of the season, a 1-1 draw with Arsenal at Leeds Road.
However, the club brought in Jack Wheeler from Birmingham City, where he’d mostly played in the reserves. The two keepers would spend much of the season battling it out for the No.1 spot, Wheeler went straight into the first team for the second game of the season against Derby County.
He remained in goal for the third game, a 3-1 loss to Charlton Athletic, but was dropped in favour of Harry who played the next two games before once again losing his place to Wheeler!
As the season progressed Harry got an extended run in the side, he played played 26 out of 42 league games.
The season was a struggle for Town once again, finishing just one point above relegation to the Second Division. George Stephenson’s side ensured safety with a 1-0 win over Preston North End on the last day of the season, having propped up the division for much of April.

IMG_8445 2For the 1949-50 season, Harry was firmly established as the first team goalkeeper and missed just eight games, Bob Hesford eventually returned briefly in September before losing his place to Harry, Hesford would never play another game for the club and eventually departed in August 1950 to become a teacher.
Jack Wheeler came back into the frame in January playing two game but Harry soon regained the keepers jersey for the rest of the seasons they finished in 15th place.

Under George Stephenson’s management it was constant struggle for Town as they battled to stay afloat in a league that they’d dominated two decades before. Although Harry proved to be the dependable keeper any side needs, it lacked the quality needed to compete at the higher end of the table.

HTFC 50-51During the 1950-51 season, which Harry had started as the first choice he lost his place to Jack Wheeler after letting eight goals in a 0-8 defeat at Middlesbrough on 30th September.
He was confined to the reserves for the rest of the season, barring a single first team game in March.

19:8:50 Goodison ParkHarry briefly won his place back during 1951-52 but only for four games before being dislodged by Wheeler. In a season where Town remained in the bottom two from October onwards, it was a miserable season that was only heading one way, down.
In the 25 players used that season, three of them were goalkeepers, with Harry and Jack Wheeler battling it out as usual and a third goalkeeper, Ronald Humpston who played five games between November and December.
Harry had an extended run in the side lasting from Christmas Day until April, the man who had given him his break in the Football League, George Stephenson, stepped down as Town manager on 11th March following a 0-2 home defeat by Bolton.

Former Scottish International Andy Beattie was eventually prized away from Stockport County to be the new manager in April by a reported salary of £2,500!
The new boss handed Jack Wheeler the keepers jersey for the final four games of the season, but it was too late to salvage the season and Town were relegated for the first time in their history.

For the 1952-53 season, the club’s first in Division Two since 1920, Beattie opted for Jack Wheeler as his goalkeeper at the start of the campaign.
Town won promotion finishing 2nd, losing out on the title to Sheffield United by only two points. Amazingly Beattie kept more-or-less the same team throughout the season. Just 15 players used all season and seven of them ever-present, unfortunately for Harry keeper Jack Wheeler was one of the seven and he spent the entire season in the reserve side.

50's bus

Harry, 3rd from right, and his teammates set off for away game at Arsenal.

Town continued the good run during the following season,1953-54, from October onwards, didn’t drop below 4th place until they eventually finished 3rd in Division One, their highest finish since the war.
Jack Wheeler began the season as first choice keeper but a hand injury in the second game of the season a 0-0 draw at Arsenal on 22nd August saw Harry back on the first team.
Despite over a year since his last first team involvement, Harry did superbly well on his long over due recall. Remaining in goal virtually all season playing 38 games and keeping 10 clean sheets during the season as Town finished 3rd.

Unbelievably after this great 1953-54 season Harry spent virtually all of the the following season back in the Reserves! He didn’t play a single first team game for Town in the 1954-55 season, as Jack Wheeler was back from injury and was preferred by manager Andy Beattie.

HTFC 55-56After his season in the Reserves Harry did win his place back for the 1955-56 season, though he played just 10 games before Wheeler was reinstalled as first choice.
By the autumn of 1955 young keeper Harry Fearnley had emerged as another challenger to Harry for the No.1 spot. When injury kept Wheeler out of the side for a couple of games in October, it was Fearnley was picked over Harry!. 

IMG_8418In December 1955, after seven years and 157 appearances Harry left Leeds Road to join Halifax Town in search of regular first team football.
Upon leaving his departure was noted in the local paper with the following rather less than favourable write up:
“Mills was at times erratic, but when on top form he was cool, alert and daring, his height and reach enabling him to clear shots that would have beaten many goalkeepers.
It was very much a case of him either being absolutely brilliant or struggling badly, his form was often erratic”

His former Town teammate, Willie Watson was now the manager of the Third Division North team and knew Harry well so was able to beat off interest from Bradford City to his signature.
Upon signing the Halifax Daily Courier & Guardian stated that Harry was:
Considered one of the most agile and courageous exponents of his specialised craft the First Divison has known since the war.
At the Shay he would compete with Arthur Johnson for the jersey, and had to wait until February 1956 before getting into the first team.

Saturday 16th February’s home game with Mansfield was this debut, making some inspired saves on an icy pitch as the Shaman recorded their eleventh home won of the campaign.

IMG_8447However, after only three more starts and following a 3-3 draw at home to Gateshead on 10th March, Arthur Johnson was reinstalled as first team keeper and kept his place for the rest of the season.
By then Willie Watson had resigned and coach Bill Burnikell was promoted to manager, he gave Harry an extended run in the side during the first half of the 1956/57 season, leading to Johnson asking for a move away.
However, Burnikell’s resignation in December 56 led to the team election being made by he club’s committee. Chairman Harry Taylor, director Vivien Booth and trainer Allen had the final say and they elected to reinstate the now transfer listed Arthur Johnson back to the first team for the rest of the campaign.

After only a year at the Shay Harry decided to leave, a lack for first team football and life away from the game becoming more important it was an easy decision.
His wife Edith was experiencing ill health and they decided to move back home to Blyth to be with family.
Upon his return to the North East unsurprisingly there was interest form several clubs but there was only the place the 35 year keeper wanted to play, Croft Park.
Having always been hugely popular in his home town, his progress in the Football League had been keenly followed through the updates and the writings of the man that had who had first brought him to the club, Blyth News reporter Bob Thompson aka Crofter.

The clubs Secretary/Manager Dougie Wright acted quickly and Harry was installed as first choice keeper for Spartans 57/58 North Eastern League season.
Screenshot 2021-12-07 at 07.28.26He made his return debut on Saturday 24th August 1957 but couldn’t prevent the Spartans falling to a 1-2 home defeat to Consett. He played in 36 consecutive games in that first season back before missing the last three games of the season, Tommy Orr replaced him.
Orr had ended the previous season as first choice but had stepped back down into the reserves when Harry came back.

The North Eastern League folded at the end of that 57/58 season, with falling member numbers in recent seasons the withdrawal of the six Football League Reserve sides spelled the end of the league that had ran since 1906.
The Spartans joined the Midland League, in the clubs two seasons in that league Harry played in all but three of the 68 games.

Screenshot 2021-12-19 at 14.49.441958/59 brought him his first winners medal in mens football, Blyth fought their way to the Northumberland Senior Cup Final.
A 7,840 crowd at St James’ Park saw Blyth arch rivals Ashington 2-1 thanks to an 89th minute winner by Bob Nickalls.

Harry was an ever present in 59/60 as Blyth finished 5th once again, conceding only 56 goals in the 38 games played that season and had another appearance at St James Park as Blyth reached the Senior Cup Final again.
However, it was only a Runners Up medal that season as a 7,165 crowd saw North Shields claim the trophy with a 1-3 victory.
Screenshot 2021-12-17 at 07.13.19The following 1960/61 season saw Harry play in yet another new league for him and the Spartans.
The Midlands League folded due to financial problems after the 59/60 campaign so along with the other member clubs, Blyth transferred across to the Northern Counties League.
Harry played every minute of every game that season which only managed to start after the NCL created a League Cup competition to be played before the actual league campaign.
With only 18 clubs the league had to act to ensure the competition ran the full length of the season.
In the 18 league games Harry conceded 22 goals as Blyth finished 3rd, they also reached the League Cup Semi Final having finished 3rd place in the League Cup mini league competition.

IMG_8695The 1961/62 campaign proved to be the final one for Harry, now aged 38 he made 23 appearances before hanging up his gloves.
His final game game on Saturday 24th February 1962 was his 240 appearance for his hometown club.

He had helped the club get established again after the war and had become a real hero to his fellow townsfolk when he moved to Huddersfield Town. His return to the club in 1957 elevated him to iconic status with the fans.
His life after football saw Harry became a well respected painter and decorator in Blyth working for the Co-Op,  sadly he passed away in August 1990 aged only 68.

Harry Mills is a legendary Spartan, and a true all time great of the club.

His footballing fame and popularity in hometown made him one of the Blyth’s truly legendary figures. 


Credits, Acknowledgements & Thank you’s:

Halifax Town historian Johnny Meyhell for supplying the information and images of Harrys time at the club. 

Huddersfield Town historian Lee Morris for supplying the information of Harrys time at the club.

The late Ken Sproat’s superb book ‘The History of Blyth Spartans’ was as ever an important source of information.

The superb British Newspaper Archive was a vital source of info on Harry’s career.

The following websites provided important info and images –   –    @PetesPicPalace on Twitter


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Playing away.

How many grounds have you seen Blyth Spartans play at?
Well known fan, Mark Wilkinson has just clocked up the milestone of watching Blyth play at 100 different grounds.

Screenshot 2022-01-29 at 11.41.42It’s taken him 26 years to achieve his feat and reckons in doing so has clocked up enough miles to have traveled around the world 30 times!
He is actually  a ‘homeless’ Blyth Spartans fan, Mark lives a 440 mile round trip away from the clubs Northumberland home.
Every time he watches the Spartans play it is literally an away game for him. He regularly clocks up more miles to watch his team play at home than most fans do traveling to watch an away game!
There has not been many Blyth games played in the last 26 years that has not seen his distinctive flag draped somewhere within that ground, his ‘Coventry Spartans’ flag has toured the country. Screenshot 2022-01-31 at 11.34.57

You may wonder what brought someone from Coventry to support a team so far away from his home, it was a family relative from Blyth and his trips to visit them that give the opportunity to watch the famous Non League team play.

Mark’s first Spartans game came while visiting to family in August 1993 when he took in a Northern League game against Dunston Federation at Croft Park.
Thereafter, he was hooked attending games whenever up north visiting family. He relayed his experiences his work mates at the Coventry Planning Office. With them all playing for the same works football team they decided the next logical step was to form themselves into an unofficial supporters group.

Screenshot 2022-01-31 at 11.24.50Saturday 11th November 1995 saw the ‘Coventry Spartans’ make their first group away day. Blyth were playing Bury at Gigg Lane in an FA Cup 1st Round tie.
Along with 500 traveling from the North East they joyously watched Spartans add another chapter to they along and proud FA Cup history with a superb 0-2 victory.
The magic of the cup certainly worked on the Coventry Spartans, every chance they got to attend games they took. Any time the Spartans played remotely close to their area they would make arrangements for an away day. At start of every season they would study the fixtures when they were released planning their games, marking certain home games as special days out. They would all travel up to Croft Park to attend games having clubbed together their funds to sponsor home games and rightly enjoy a home game in the club sponsors lounge.

To this very day Mark still takes every opportunity to take in a Blyth game. He wouldn’t think twice about driving up to Croft Park for important midweek home league game. While being Midlands based has helped for games at places like Tamworth and Nuneaton which are to him as close to a home game as it gets for him, he regularly takes half days from work to attend midweek away games in and around the Manchester and South Yorkshire areas.

Screenshot 2022-01-31 at 11.35.39His dedication shown when taking time off work to attend a midweek county cup game because it’s being played at a ground he hasn’t seen the Spartans play at before.
He often clocks up around 4 to 5,000 miles a season watching his club, and of course there is the cost involved. Admission and petrol aside its the must have match programme, the pies the deserved pint and the occasional deserved reward of an overnight stay.

bookIn the early years of the Coventry Spartans Mark soon released just how many miles they were clocking up each season so in the build up to the clubs 1999/2000 season he came up with a plan to record their  travels.
He wrote and published a book; My Mother in Law loves Football which documented the Coventry Spartans travels during the Centenary season in which they clocked up a total of 6,810 miles to watch 21 games played.

Travelling to away games is never a simple affair, more often than not it involves careful planning.
Everything is planned down to the smallest detail. He has to work out his timings for the day, he needs to know what time to get into work early enough to put in his required hours that allows him to get away in time to make the drive to games.
He’s always organising pick up points for mates on they way to games and even goes out his way to drop then back off at various railway stations after matches allow them to complete their journey’s home.
When his daughter started University in Swansea, he’d forgotten that he had agreed to drop her off.
So, with Blyth playing away at Stourbridge it was a very early start. He drove all the way to Swansea dropped her off and then dashed back up to Stourbridge to ensure he made it in time for kick off.

Mark has seen 15 different managers come and go during his 26 year quest, seen the Spartans play in three different leagues; Northern League, Northern Premier League, and National League North.
he’s watched games in five cup competitions; FA Cup, FA Trophy, Setanta Shield and Northumberland Senior Cup & NPL Presidents Cup.
Such is Mark’s dedication to the club, in March 2018 he made a 5 hour midweek round trip to Barry in Wales to support the clubs striker Dan Maguire when he was capped by the England C team against the Wales C side.

His target was delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic and eventually came on Saturday 4th December 2021 when Spartans made their first ever visit to AFC Fylde’s Mill Farm Ground.
However, it wasn’t one of his better away days. He’s not a fan of the new out of town modern grounds:
The 100th ground was a trip to AFC Fylde and a 4-1 loss, a ground which typifies the direction in which non-league football is going. The quirky grounds in the middle of housing estates are being replaced with out of town Lego grounds on retail parks. The food and toilets may be better, but the atmosphere in these new grounds often leaves a lot to be desired.

Screenshot 2022-01-31 at 11.31.12Mark has listed the grounds he’s visited over the years along with his memory of that ground –

  • Alfreton Townmy first visit was just after we had won the President’s Cup
  • Altrincham the loss in the 2018/19 Play Offs was hard to take
  • Ashton United nothing to shout about
  • Bamber BridgeOnce missed 3 Blyth goals with “Delhi belly”, I was in the loo
  • BarrowHorrible fans, got the finger off a 4-year-old as we walked out
  • BarwellGreat burgers apparently
  • Bedlington TerriersA rare Blyth away game in the North East
  • Belper TownThe home goalkeeper went on a stag doo with a load of Blyth fans after the game
  • Bishop AucklandHeritage Park – Lovely old-style ground with a cricket pitch at the side
  • BlackpoolFA Cup, so close to a replay
  • Blyth SpartansHow it’s changed over the years
  • Boston UnitedPretty poor view from the away end
  • BournemouthFA Cup, 2 fantastic saves from Mark Bell to earn a replay
  • Brackley TownPretty friendly lot
  • Bradford PA – Hate running track pitches, the bus shelter stand behind the goals is something else
  • BurscoughWho could forget the Spartans Choir after the match
  • Burton AlbionRemember going the week after the FA Trophy game we nearly had a steward each
  • Bury Famous 1st Round FA Cup win
  • BuxtonAlways liked going here
  • ChasetownThat FA Cup replay defeat was just horrible
  • Cheltenham TownGloucester City – Segregation, urgh
  • Chester CityDeva Stadium FA Trophy, home fans gave Blyth a standing ovation after the match
  • ChorleyOne of the first Coventry Spartans away trips
  • Cirencesterto see us play Gloucester City
  • Coalville Town not much to report
  • Colwyn Bay – how could I forget the game where 3 Blyth players ended up in hospital
  • Corby Town old ground
  • Corby Townnew ground a stone’s throw away from the old one
  • Curzon Ashton the Mexican fancy dress was something else
  • Darlington One word awful
  • Drolysden All I recall was dog dirt behind the goal, pitch is probably the only grass for miles
  • Eastwood Town Just shows what happens when someone tries to take a club beyond its means
  • Emley Travelled from Blyth for an away game. Great mushy peas
  • Frickley Athletic I hate Frickley end of
  • Farsley Celticold style ground
  • FCUM That 3-1 win away with a Nipa scorcher will live long in the memory
  • Fylde another soulless new ground in the middle of nowhere
  • Gainsborough Trinity – One of my favourite grounds, great raised terrace behind one of the goals
  • Gateshead Soulless
  • Grantham Town Home of the Gingerbread men
  • Guiseley My son was only 10 months old on my first visit, he’s now 20
  • Halesowen Town FA Trophy replay
  • Harrogate Town Things have changed here over the years
  • Hartlepool United – FA Cup, will never forget that Stephen Turnbull free kick
  • Hednesford Not much to say really
  • Hereford United What a crap start to the 2018/19 season
  • Hinckleynew ground
  • Hucknall Town Always loved the Club Shed
  • Hyde United not had a lot of luck here over the years
  • Ilkeston Town 3 nil up and they fcuk’d it up, what a comeback that was
  • Kettering Town (Old ground) Great terrace alongside the pitch
  • Kettering Town (New ground – Burton Latimer) – Nothing to shout about
  • Kidderminster Harriers Great pies, but segregation
  • Lancaster City Went when I was on holiday in the Lakes
  • Leamington Spa More sand than Blackpool beach
  • Leek Town Who could forget that FA Cup comeback
  • Leigh RMI Great old ground, petty we lost in an FA Cup qualifier
  • Leyton Orient FA Trophy 3rd Round, unlucky not to get a draw
  • Marine Perhaps my favourite ground
  • Matlock Town Great view and a nice little ground
  • Mickleover Sports who could forget Pinkie and the 7-1 drubbing?
  • Nantwich Great food
  • Newcastle BenfieldNSC Final v Bedlington Terriers – we lost & I got soaked
  • Newcastle UnitedNSC Finals v Bedlington Terriers & Morpeth
  • North Ferriby United Another example of money spoiling football
  • Northwich Victoria can’t remember which stadium I went to
  • Nuneaton great old-style ground in the heart of the town
  • Nuneaton new ground – The away game dressed as nuns was pure class
  • Prescott Cables – (for a Runcorn game against Blyth) – Lovely ground
  • Redditch visited in my motorhome on the way to Wales
  • Runcorn The fact that you could go to the loo and still see the game will never be forgotten
  • Rushall Olympic What non-League football is all about
  • Salford Scene of the vicious attack by a wheelie bin on a Blyth supporter
  • Shaw Lane AFC Plastic team and ground
  • Skelmersdale A long midweek trip, but worth it in our promotion season
  • Solihull Borough An FA Trophy win
  • Solihull Moors can’t really remember it
  • Southport A 3-0 away win what more could you as for
  • Spennymoor United The hat trick by Graham Fenton in a 5-0 drubbing was superb
  • Stafford RangersGreat covered terrace alongside the pitch
  • Stalybridge Celtic nice ground on a bit of a slope
  • StamfordOld – Lovely ground in a great setting
  • StamfordNew – Typical new soulless ground
  • Stocksbridge Park Steels A quirky non-league ground
  • Stockport County for the FA Cup 2nd Round loss and a fine NLN away win
  • Stourbridge classic with a cricket pitch to one side
  • Sutton Coldfield Plastic pitch
  • Tamworth now looks like a giant snooker table
  • Telford United not the friendliest of grounds
  • Traffordneat and tidy ground
  • Vauxhall Motors – 5-1 loss FA Cup loss was the only time I haven’t applauded the team off 
  • Wakefield & Emley Strange playing at a Rugby League ground
  • Warrington Town Midweek trip, great chip shop nearby
  • Whitby Town – Not the nicest fans in the world
  • Whitley Baypre season friendly
  • Winsford Town A piano outside the clubhouse and a Wayne Edgecumbe hat trick what a memory
  • Witton Albion Chris Addison dressed as a cock will live long in the memory 
  • Worcester City had a massive terrace alongside the pitch
  • York City (Bootham Crescent) – Terrible away facilities, would have been good in its day
  • York City (new Ground) truly awful new ground £20 admission

Screenshot 2022-01-31 at 11.28.25Mark has compiled his top three’s
All time top 3 favourite grounds are –
1 – Canal Street: Runcorngreat old ground with real character
2 – Matlock Towngreat view of Riber Castle
3 – Kettering Townloved the terrace along the length of the pitch opposite the main stand

His top 3 worst grounds are –
1 – F
rickley Athleticjust grim
2 – York Citythe new ground is awful, soulless and expensive
3 – Spennymoorneed I say more

His Top 3 best away memories are –
1 – FA Cup win at Bury  – the first Coventry Spartans away trip
2 – Winning the FA Cup game at Leek – after being 2-0 down at half-time.
3 – Mexican day – last away game at Curzon Ashton. What a day to celebrate winning the League.

Top 3 worst memories of away games –
1 – Losing 5-1 at Vauxhall Motors in FA Cup the only time I haven’t applauded the team off the pitch
2 – Losing away at Chasetown in the FA Cup replay – never felt that threatened at an away game
3 – Losing to Barrow and getting the finger off a young lad who was with his mum at the match!

Biggest wins witnessed at games –
7-1 away at Mickleover Sports – 21/1/17 (Reid hat trick)
5-0 away at Winsford United – 2/10/99 (Edgecumbe hat-trick)
5-0 away at Spennymoor United – 19/8/03 (Fenton hat-trick)

Biggest defeats witnessed at games –
5-1 at Vauxhall Motors 25/9/10 and at Chester 25/9/21
5-2 away at Hyde United – 16/10/99
4-3 Blackpool in the FA Cup – 15/11/97

Most goals seen in a game –
8 – 7-1 win at Mickleover Sports 21/1/17
8 – 4-4 away at Kettering Town 16/11/19

Other memorable moments in Mark’s 26 year achievement –

  • At one sponsored match we got one of The Coventry Spartans, on his first trip to Croft Park, to ask this tall chap in a flat cap to move away from the TV in The Director’s Lounge as we couldn’t see the football results on Final Score. It was none other than Jack Charlton!
    His son John was the manager at the time.
  • On the way back from the 4-3 defeat to Chester City in the FA Trophy on 24th February 2001, I was interviewed by Richard Littlejohn live on BBC Radio 5 Live promoting my book
    “My Mother-In-Law Loves Football” I had to get out of the car in the snow as my mobile was interfering with the radio, much to the delight of the lads in the car.
  • A couple of us met Bobby Robson at half-time when we popped into the Director’s Lounge at a mid-week game – I managed to get him to sign a programme which I auctioned off to raise funds for my book “My Mother-In-Law Loves Football”.
  • Helicopter landing on the pitch at Croft Park to pick up an injured player
  • 3 players getting taken to hospital away at Colwyn Bay
  • Trouble getting my pushchair through the turnstile at Guiseley when my son was 10 months old
  • Bamber Bridge – missed 3 goals in the toilet as a result of deli belly. I was that bad I couldn’t even drive home.

Acknowledgements & Thank you’s – 

  • The original Coventry Spartans members; Martin Gibbins, Ian Lacey, David Pritchard.
  • Graham Usher.
  • Blyth Spartans officials who have helped over the years and the club website for archived results.
  • Special mentions to my wife Wendy, children Aran and Ella for endulging my obsession.
  • Peter and Rosie Ellis, Mark Powell, Phil Johnson, John Hague, Mark Hall, David Gray and Colin Green, plus all the other people who have joined me under the Coventry Spartans umbrella over the years.
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Born in Blyth – Clem Stephenson.

This series features players that were born in the town and played for the club some stage of their careers.
Fourth in the series is…

Clem Stephenson 1909/10

CS BSFCFrom humble beginnings in a tiny miners cottage, Clem went onto become the first Blyth born footballer to represent his country.

Born at 40 Stone Row, Newsham on
6th February 1890, Clement was the youngest of three brothers who all became successful footballers.

Starting as a junior with New Delaval Villa in the Northumberland League, he went on to win the FA Cup both as a player and a manager.
He is the only Blyth born footballer to be inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame.

The Stephenson brothers; brothers AVFCClem, Jimmy & George are without doubt the most successful footballing family the town has ever produced.
All three played for Aston Villa.
Clem and Jimmy guested for Leeds City in the Wartime League at the same time while George also gained the honour of playing for his country.

Their parents; father James born 2nd November 1859 in Birtley Co. Durham, was a colliery blacksmith. Mother Ann (nee Ternant) was born 9th August 1864 in Shilbottle.
They moved over the railway line from Stone Row, Newsham to Middle Row in New Delaval just before youngest brother George was born on 3rd September 1900.
By 1911 the family had grown to eight children, James and Anne actually had ten children but two sadly died.

Stephenson (map)

  • The Newsham and New Delaval areas of the town were only separated by the Blyth & Tyne North Eastern Railway line. With this area being called New Delaval it has led to many online references to Clem’s place of birth wrongly being stated as Seaton Delaval which is a village 5 miles south of the New Delaval area of Blyth.

Having caught the eye as a junior for New Delaval Villa, Clem was signed by West Stanley ahead of their inaugural season in the North Eastern League.
A successful first season saw them finish 3rd only missing out on the title by 3 points. Clem played two more season before they parted ways.

By December 1909 he was in a bitter dispute with the club, he believed they had broke the conditions of his contract and was therefore entitled to leave.
The Spartans made him an offer of ten shillings per week which he accepted.
However, West Stanley refused to allow him to leave so Clem took his case to the FA. Unfortunately, no records exist of how the Durham club had broke his contract so the exact details of the dispute are unknown.

IMG_5516Clem, pictured making his debut for Blyth at Bedlington United on Saturday 15th December, scored twice in the 3-1 Tynemouth Infirmary Cup Quarter Final win.

He struck up an instant understanding with fellow forwards Nicky Thompson and Peter Mackin. Their forward play was so admired by the Blyth fans they had a Music Hall song written about them.IMG_5515

Scoring 12 goals in only 19 appearances he soon attracted the attention of several league clubs.
First Division Aston Villa were determined to sign the 20 year old inside forward and sent club representative Wally Stange to capture his signature.
On Saturday 16th March 1910 Blyth played Coxlodge Villa away in an Aged Miners Home Cup replay.
IMG_6600Having won 2-0, Clem scored the second goal, the players and officials celebrated afterwards in the nearby Coxlodge Hotel pub.
Wally Stange approached club officials, introduced himself and asked to speak in private to Clem about signing for Aston Villa.
They all went upstairs to a bedroom above the pub and struck a deal. Villa paid £75 up front with a further £100 due in February 1912.

He was sent out to Villa’s nursery club Stourbridge, playing the remainder of the season in the Birmingham District League.
Clem played the first part of their 1910/11 campaign before returning to Villa in February 1911.

CS AVFC 1His Villa debut came on 25th February aged 21, he scored the third goal in a 4-0 home win over Tottenham Hotspur.
He settled back into life at Villa, helped by his fellow Geordie housemates John Jeffrey and John Robinson.
All three shared lodgings at 13 Victoria Road in Aston Manor, the home of George & Anne Tooth.
He went on to make another four appearances that season scoring twice more.

In 1911/12 he played 20 times scoring 10 goals as Villa finished 6th, he had developed into an inside-left and became an England Trialist.
His performances quickly won praise and it was said his passes “were as sweet as stolen kisses!”.

The following season he played in all but 3 of their 38 league games scoring 14 goals as they finished runners up to Sunderland but it was his cup exploits that caught peoples attention. Scoring five times on the way to the Final, including the crucial winner in the Semi Final tie against Oldham Athletic.CS 1913 FAC
He gained notoriety having claimed that he had dreamt on the eve of the 1913 FA Cup final that Villa would win the Cup.
Nothing too remarkable given he was to play the following day, however he also dreamt that team-mate Tommy Barber would head the winner.

avfc-fa-cupIn a bad tempered final, he wound up Sunderland’s Charlie Buchan during the match with his dream claim, and was unceremoniously pushed aside:
“Ah, get away with you,” was Buchan’s reply.
However, Barber did indeed head the winner as Clem won his first medal when Villa claimed the trophy for the 5th time.

On Thursday 23rd July 1914 Clem married Violet Scott at the Central Primitive Methodist Church in Blyth and their Reception was held at the Co-operative Hall in Newsham.
They would have two children who they named after themselves, Violet who was born a year after they got married and Clement in March 1920.

His career was then interrupted by the First World War, however Clem continued to play football as a ‘guest player’ throughout the war.
After working as a shell-maker in a munitions factory, on 28th January 1918 Ordinary Seaman Z/7344 joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (Bristol Division).
He was posted to the RN Depot at Crystal Palace on 29th April 1918.
Subsequently spending much of his time as a physical training instructor and was promoted to the rank of leading seaman on 17th October 1918,  he was finally demobilised on 17th January 1919.

He had already guested for Hartlepool United and South Shields & District in the Northern Victory League. However it was his guest appearances for Leeds City during the war that wrote his name indelibly into the annals of the Elland Road club.IMG_6585

He first started guesting in February 1916 missing very few games as Leeds became one of the best teams in the land. They topping the Midland Section of the Principle Tournament in 1916-17 and again in 1917-18.
It was decided to have a play-off to decide the unofficial champions of England and there was pandemonium when Stephenson was not available for the two-legged final with Stoke in May 1918.
Leeds were fortunate to get the services of Billy Hibbert as Clem’s replacement and his goal helped Leeds to take the title.
Clem was back at Elland Road in 1919 to play the final months of the 1918-19 Tournament but Leeds could only manage fourth.
From 1916 to 1919 Clem played 91 times for Leeds scoring 44 goals.
This led to much speculation that Herbert Chapman was going to bring Clem to Leeds permanently after the end of the war, but it proved unfounded and he returned to play for Villa.
It was as a result of allegedly making irregular payments to such Wartime guests, like Clem, that brought a questionable end to Chapman’s career at Leeds City and led to the dissolution of the club in 1919.

He was an ever-present in Villa’s 1919-20 FA Cup win. He played in the Final against Huddersfield Town held at Stamford Bridge in front of a much reduced crowd of 50,018 which saw Villa take the cup thanks to an extra time winner from Billy Kirton.
He form saw him finally called up for England for their British Championship game against Wales on 15th March 1920. However much to everyone’s surprise he was selected for the game England lost 1-2.

Following two seasons at Villa in which he played 71 games and scored 39 goals, at the age of 31 and a decade on from his debut, his last game came on 5th March 1921.
When he was sold to Huddersfield Town, for £3,000 on 15th March he had played 216 times and scored 96 goals.
There was a growing feeling within the Villa board that Clem may have been past his best, but it transpired that a dispute over his continued residency in Newcastle had precipitated the transfer.
In what proved ultimately to be a self-defeating action, the Villa board ruled that all their players – including Clem – had to live in the local area.
The directors, the Daily Express later reported, wanted to guarantee the availability of all the players for daily training, but they only succeeded in alienating several employees, including Clem, who refused to relocate from his home in Northumberland. With no sign of a resolution in sight, the directors decided to cash in with his transfer.

AVFC LegendClem’s contribution to Villa and football in general was recognised by his nomination to the top 100 players in English league history. This accolade is held by only five other Villa players; Sam Hardy, Archie Hunter, Trevor Ford, Danny Blanchflower and Paul McGrath.
Tony Matthews states in his ‘Who’s Who of Aston Villa’ book that Clem was:
“An expert schemer, he passed the ball with fine judgement, was no mean goalscorer, could shoot with both feet, had good pace and was never afraid to rough it with the burly defenders.”

CS HTFCHerbert Chapman, now the Manager of Huddersfield Town, knew the player he wanted telling the board upon being appointed:
“You have talented, mostly young, players – they need a general to lead them. I know the man and I think we can get him.” 

Upon winning the 1922 FA Cup Final 1-0 against Preston North End, Clem became the first player in the Twentieth century to win three F.A. Cup winners medals.

Clem was appointed club captain, once again Chapman brought out the best in him.
In his 6 years as captain they never finished outside of the top 3 in the First Division, winning the title in 1923-24, 1924-25 and 1925-26.HTFC 1920'S

Having represented the Football League on three occasions aged 34, he won his first and only International Cap.
On 3rd March 1924 he played inside left in England’s 1-2 British Championship defeat by Wales at Ewood Park, Blackburn.
The fact he was only awarded a single cap reporter Ivan Sharpe wrote:
‘A greater failure by England’s selectors I have never known,’

It was later written about Herbert Chapman’s successful side:
“Chapman bought perceptively, welded his assets together astutely and soon sent out one of the most successful League sides of all time. It was stubborn, disciplined and highly mobile with Clem Stephenson at the heart of everything.”


Clem turns away having just scored the opening goal in the 2-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on 14 March 1925.

When Herbert Chapman left to become Arsenal manager in 1925, he personally wrote to Clem:
“I want to thank you personally for your play, your wholehearted efforts both on and off the field. I have never had such confidence in any captain of a team I have been associated with”.


Clem made a total of 248 appearances for Huddersfield.
By the time Huddersfield achieved their success, he had reached the veteran stage in his career but had put his experience to good use.
In 1926 The Times wrote an article about Clem’s role in Town’s success;
‘In an era when the demand is always for speed, there has been nothing more notable than the success of the elderly player’.

‘The finely balanced Huddersfield Town team has been built round Stephenson. From his position at inside-left he has been leader and master-mind in tactics, and the success achieved during the past three years can be traced to his wonderful efforts’.

‘For three or four years he has been the general, the man who conceives the tactics to be set in force in a match, and who varies them to meet an emergency, and all the time, in spite of the fact that he has slowed down, he is still the supreme expert in launching an attack.’

Shortly before Herbert Chapman’s untimely passing in January 1934, in an interview extolling the virtues of older players, he stated:
‘Look how Huddersfield Town nursed Clem Stephenson so that they might get the last out of him … Clem was a fine tactician and an outstanding captain.’

1928-player-stephensonboxing-racing-football-stephensonOn the 27th November 1928 he announced his intention to retire at the end of the season.
He did so on 27th May 1929 after 440 Football League appearances in which he scored 127 goals.
Upon retiring he was appointed Huddersfield manager, replacing the Jack Chaplin.
He served until 8 June 1942 becoming the clubs longest serving manager,
a record he still holds.
He led Town to second place in 33/34, only losing out to Arsenal by 3 points, The Daily Express stated about Town’s achievement:
‘The status of this club is a brilliant testimonial to the management. They always seem to be able to find the right type of player without pouring out a stream of gold. Clem Stephenson knows.’

Under Clem’s management he guided Town to two FA Cup Finals unfortunately losing both. The first to a Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal in 1930 and the other to Preston North End in 1938.
He also reached a semi-final in 1939, Huddersfield have never reached the
FA Cup semi-final since.
He oversaw two club records: their record 10–1 victory over Blackpool in December 1930 at Leeds Road and the grounds record attendance of 67,037 on 27th February 1932 for the FA Cup 6th Round defeat to Arsenal.

During the turbulent years of the Second World War, he made the decision to walk away from the game altogether and resigned as Town manager on 6th June 1942.
At that stage of their lives Clem and Violet were living at 69 Spa Wood Top in Huddersfield along with Violet’s parents, William and Mary.
After stepping away from the game he worked as a caterer in the town.

IMG_6586Rightly regarded as a Huddersfield Town legend Clem sadly died on 24th October 1961, aged 71 and he is still honoured to this day by the club.

ClemStephenson_AndyBooth150In 2010 he was inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame in honour of his contribution to the game.
Clem’s grandson, named after grandad, was presented with a memento by another famed Huddersfield Town striker and now club ambassador, Andy Booth.

What became of his brothers –

  • James Stephenson (10 February 1895 – 1 February 1958)
    JimmyFollowing in his older brothers footsteps James started with New Delaval Villa, before joining him at First Division Aston Villa in 1914.
    The first World War interrupted his progress at Villa Park, but he followed his brother to guest for Leeds City in 1916.
    He enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) in May 1917 and was posted to France following completion of his training in Britain. Gunner Stephenson would subsequently take part in several actions on the Western Front and later served with the Army of Occupation on the Rhine.
    He returned to Villa Park in 1919 playing twenty League games before he was transferred to First Division Sunderland for £3,000 in May 1921 having played a total of 32 times for Villa.
    He only stayed one season at Roker Park playing 22 times before he joined Third Division South Watford.
    He enjoyed five seasons scoring 19 goals in 109 games.
    He joined Third Division South Queens Park Rangers in 1927, making eighteen appearances before having a spell at Non-League Boston Town in 1928. He returned to the North East a year later, playing for New Delaval Villa in 1929/30. After Ashington lost their league status they signed Jimmy for their inaugural 30/31 North Eastern League season.
    He then played one final season at New Delaval Villa again before retiring at end of 31/32.
  • George Ternent Stephenson (3 September 1900 – 18 August 1971)
    GeorgeUnsurprisingly he also started playing for junior club New Delaval Villa in 1918 before joining Leeds City in 1919.
    He hadn’t made a first team appearance when the club was expelled from the League in October 1919 and disbanded.
    From November 1919 to November 1927 he played for Aston Villa, making his debut against Liverpool in December 1921.
    He was unfortunate not to feature in their 1924 FA Cup Final team. He established himself as a first team regular from the end of January 1925, scoring 22 goals in 95 appearances.
    There is a local legend that during the 1926 National Strike George decided to help boost the morale of the unemployed when he returned home to Newsham bringing a football.
    The unemployed men congregated on Gallacher’s Field (now the site of Blyth Golf Course) were they played football and cards all day and into the evening.
    He moving on to Derby County in November 1927, and was part of the team that were runners up in the League Championship in 1929-30 scoring 16 goals.
    He also became an England international, making two appearances in the 1928 tour of France and Belgium, scoring twice against France on his debut on 17th May 1928.
    He made his third and final appearance came in May 1931 in a 5-2 defeat to France.
    After four seasons at Derby, where he scored 56 goals in 120 appearances, he moved to Sheffield Wednesday in February 1931, scoring 20 goals in 45 appearances for The Owls.
    He signed for Preston North End in July 1933 and spent the 1933-34 season with them, scoring 16 goals in 28 appearances as they finished runners up in the Second Division and were promoted. He spent the last three years of his career with Charlton Athletic, joining in May 1934.
    He won the Third Division (South) Championship in 1934-35 and made it three successive promotions when Charlton finished runners up in the Second Division in 1935-36 and were promoted to the First Division, where he played 11 times the next season before he retired in 1936 after 12 goals in 53 appearances for Athletic.
    After being forced to retire he remained as part of Charlton’s backroom staff, becoming Assistant Manager in May 1938.
    Like his older brother he also became Huddersfield Town’s manager in August 1947 and stayed five seasons until leaving the post in March 1952. He then became a publican taking over the Sportsman’s Inn on New Crown Street in Halifax.

Not bad careers for 3 young lads from Newsham.


Credits, Acknowledgements & Thank you’s:

The late Ken Sproat’s superb book ‘The History of Blyth Spartans’ was as ever an important source of information.

The following excellent websites provided important info and images:

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The history of Blyth Spartans kits and colours.

team shotBlyth Spartans are well know for their rather unique green & white striped shirts, while a popular choice for European clubs in this country no other team from the National League upwards currently wear green and white stripes as their home kit.

The clubs history is full of varying styles of green & white tops and quite often different styles worn in the same season.
The current run of 54 years wearing stripes is the longest in the clubs history.

When Blyth Spartans Athletic Club were formed from the embers of Blyth FC in April 1899 the new club needed playing kit, that wasn’t green & white stripes though.
white shirtsIt consisted of white shirts, white shorts and red socks, the reason for that choice is unknown.
After initially only playing friendlies, the clubs first league competition was the 1901/02 Northumberland League season, wearing the white shirts, white shorts and red socks.

When the striped tops were initially used is unclear because the first ever team photo taken at the Travellers Rest Public House (which the club used as its base & changing rooms), is dated as ‘1901/02’ and they are wearing stripes rather than white tops.
However, it is documented that for the new 1902/03 season the famed green & white shirts were officially adopted as the clubs colours.
Striped tops were popular at the time, the old Blyth FC had worn black & white stripes. They had just acquired brand new kit before they folded, Blyth Thistle FC who by default became the leading team in the town took ownership of that new kit.

The first recorded newspaper reference to Spartans wearing green & white stripes appeared in the Blyth News report of the away game at Seghill Blake on the 18th October 1902.
The reporter commented that the contrast between the green & white stripes of Blyth and the red and white tops of Seghill ‘pleased him’.
As would be the case for many years to come old kit was still used at times, the red socks were often worn with the green & white striped tops. Ever since adopting the green & white stripes, white shirts have traditionally been the clubs away colours.

The actual reason behind the clubs choice of green will probably never be known, surprisingly there is no documented record of why those colours were chosen.
A vague thought by a town historian was that it may have come about due to the amount of green open space around the town in 1902!.
The colour has since become the choice of two other prominent sporting institutions in the town; the Rugby Club and the Running Club.
With the origins of the clubs green & white stripes being unknown it led to the local legend that it was donated by Glasgow Celtic!
The legend had it that in 1902 Celtic were been due to play a friendly further south but due to bad weather they didn’t make it that far and allegedly played the Spartans instead.

GCFC 2Between 1889 and 1903 Celtic had worn green & white striped tops before adopting their now famous hoops.GCFC 1
Allegedly having helped Celtic out it was thought they give Blyth their strips!

However, that claim is simply not true
as the 1901/02 team photo proves.
It has also been debunked by Glasgow Celtic Football Club themselves and two people whom have published books about the Spartans.

In 2001 supporter Michael Scott published ‘and then the corner flag fell down,’ reflecting on his years supporting the club.
He contacted Celtic to establish any truth, upon checking their records they confirmed the Blyth game had not happened.
The only North East opposition they faced in 1902 was on 13th March when they played Newcastle United, winning 4-2, but the game took place at Berwick Cricket Club.

In 2013 club historian Ken Sproat published his superb history book, documenting the club from its origins. He had spent years pouring over every single archived ‘Blyth News’ paper that was ever produced. He was able to find out who owned the first ever football in the town and who played the first game, but there was absolutely nothing about the supposed friendly. 
For such a game to have taken place in 1902 it would have been well documented, in those days everything that happened in the town no matter how trivial was reported.
The clubs own playing records go back to the very first game played and the only recorded friendly in 1902 was against Sleekburn United on 1st February.
Also to his disbelief he found no reference whatsoever as to why green & white stripes were chosen as the teams colours.


  • The theories to why teams didn’t initially play in green varies wildly. In the late 1800’s the only colours widely available for kits were black, red, white and blue.
- There are claims that green was considered unlucky, possibly going back to the theatre days of the 1700’s. A green mat or cloth was brought onto stage for an actor to perform their dying scene on, as years passed green became associated with death.

    – There is also a theory that the colour green became very unpopular in the late Victorian years because there was no safe green dye. Bright emerald green was made from arsenic, once safer green dyes were invented people were still wary of the colour.

    – A claim exists that English clubs avoided the colour due to it’s connection with the troubles in Ireland. In the late 1700’s the English brought in a law that anybody wearing green could be punished by hanging after the was colour adopted by the Irish Freedom Fighters of that time. This is probably the logic behind Celtic and Hibs colour scheme as both clubs have Irish roots.

    – The common assumption that green shirts would clash with the goalkeepers top is   actually the wrong way around.

    Until 1909 keepers could wear only red, white or blue. As this meant some sort of colour clash green was added to the palette as fewer teams wore green. In 1912 the FA gave permission for green jerseys to be worn as a result it became the default colour for keepers.


white green collarFrom 1902 to 1925 the club wore many styles of green & white stripes as the fashions of football tops changed with the times. Along with changes to the width and position of the stripes the other main change was to the neck/collar of the shirts, varying from buttons to string tied.string no string
In the 20’s and through into the early 30’s the club used two different string tie shirts. They only differed by the colour and style of neckline. One had a white round neck and the other a green collar. 
As was be the case for many years the club reused shirts to save money. After discarding the string tie the green collar shirt was used again for several season’s. 

  • 1922/23 had seen the very first move away from stripes. A pre season photo taken at Croft Park with all club officials and players shows them wearing an all green shirt with a white V.
    It was a very popular style top at the time and the first break away from the usual stripes or blocks of colours used in football tops.
    However, as throughout the club’s history these top were not worn exclusively and by the New Year the team were photographed wearing stripes again. The green shirt with white V reappeared 10 years later!
    1932 advertsThe first ever action photo of the Spartans taken at the
    3-1 home win over Wallsend on 10th September 1932 shows them wearing the top. Unsurprisingly there is another image from that same season showing them wearing green & white stripes!
    By the very next season, 1933/34, they were back to wearing stripes which were worn up until the club closed up shop at the outbreak of WWII.

The post war years saw the shirt style change purely due to what the club could get.
New kit was supplied by sports outfitters M.Cropps, who had run a shop in the town since the 1832.
Quite often kit that had been worn for many years would be kept when new shirts were bought and reappeared a few seasons later as the club looked to save money and use what they had.
Officials would spend the time mending the kit rather than replace it, club legend Billy Fenwick often spent hours just darning worn out socks so they could be used again.

46:47For the club’s first season after WWII, 1946/47, brand new white & green quartered shirts were worn for the single season in the Northern Alliance.
Election back into the Northern Eastern League for the following season saw the club return to the stripes they had worn in the NEL prior to the war.
However by 1950/51 they were back wearing new green & white quarter tops. As had happened before those new tops were not worn exclusively and many times that season the stripes were also used.

Barely four months into 51/52 season there was yet another change.
Prior to an FA Cup 1st Round tie at home to Bishop Auckland in November,
a game played in front of a then record home crowd of 9,468, new team kit was presented to the club.
The thriving Supporters Club which boasted two thousand members and a newly formed women’s section sourced and bought brand team new kit.
It was the beginning of a club tradition that still carriers on to this very day.
The solid green shirt with white arms was worn throughout the 1950’s in two different styles, one had a white collar and another had a white V neck collar.

Again the styling of the shirts mirrored the current fashion, the neck line was quite often the main difference, changing from a V style collar to a round neck and even a draw string collar reappeared in early 50’s tops.

Hartlepools Shake

Captain Arthur Swoden, wearing the changed kit greets the Hartlepools United captain.

The first known image of Blyth wearing away colours, the traditional white shirt, comes from 1957. Hosting Hartlepools United in an FA Cup 2nd Rd tie the club choose to wear their white shirts as United’s blue shirts were the exact same style as Blyth’s solid green one’s.

58/59 saw the club wear solid green shirts with a large white V collar, white shorts and white socks with green top as the first choice home kit. 
Even into the 60’s just when the club seemed to have settled on the use of stripes random changes still occurred.
In 1964/65 the club turned amateur when it joined the Northern League and a new round neck shirt was purchased.
Jim CampbellThat new shirt was the ever first to carry a crest, it wasn’t specifically the clubs own badge 1st badgebut the towns official crest with the club name underneath.
By 1966/67 the stripes were gone yet again as a green shirt with white arms similar to that worn in the 50’s returned, this time with the crest on it and also appeared on the white away shirts.
That town crest never appeared on a shirt again after the 66/67 season.


  • There has only ever been 3 official football club crests.
    Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 11.42.14The first came about at the beginning of 1980 when Chairman Jim Turney and newly appointed commercial manager, Mike Turnbull, decided the club needed its own identity.
    They ran a competition to design a club crest with an unknown local artist coming up with the winning design. Initially used for promotional & sponsorship purposes it first appeared on the clubs programmes for the 1980/81 season.
    While it was used on souvenirs and merchandise it never ever appeared on the teams kit!
    That logo served the club right through until 1993 when long serving club director and press officer Phil Castiaux worked with Kimmerston Design on a project to modernise it.
    That new design has stood the test of time and still serves the club right up until the present day.
    There was however a change to the design in summer of 1999, with the club celebrating its centenary it was incorporated into the design for the 1999/2000 season only.



In Jackie Marks first season as manager, 67/68, there was a change in home shirt colour.
They wore white shirts with green collar & cuff trimmings, green shorts & white socks.
That kit was then worn as the away kit in subsequent seasons. 
Thereafter 67/68 season it has been stripes in varying styles right up until the present day.

  • The clubs traditional colours are classed as the green & white stripes with black shorts and green socks, however over the years there have been many different combinations.
    In 1980 white socks were used with black shorts then in 1981 for the first time in a decade the club used white shorts and socks. Since then more often than not the shorts have been black and its the socks that have changed from white to green.
    Another popular combination; green & white striped shirts with green shorts and green socks has been used in the 80’s, 90’s and even up until the present day. 

In the 71/72 season Blyth reached the FA Cup 3rd Round for the first time ever, for the home tie with Reading the club were treated to a brand new home kit donated by two local businessmen, brothers Roy & Ian Caller. They were owners of the popular North East department stores; Callers and also happened to be the clubs Joint Vice Presidents.
They would continue to repeat their generosity for big cup games throughout the 70’s.

SlaneThe first ever kit to carry the makers branding came in the 74/75 season, the Umbro kit came about due to a special occasion.
Having reached the FA Cup 1st Round, the club landed a plumb home tie with Preston North End.
Boasting two 1966 World Cup winners, Bobby Charlton and Nobby Stiles, the game attracted an all ticket sell out crowd of 8,500.
Again Caller’s brothers treated the club to brand new kit for the occasion. In the build up to the game the new home shirts were worn for a series of publicity photos, as modelled by club legend Brian Slane.

After drawing 1-1 the club strangely reverted back to their old style non branded home striped shirts for the replay at Preston! 
The new Umbro home shirts were alternated with the non branded shirts worn in that replay throughout the rest of the season.
A new Umbro branded all yellow away kit was also presented to the club and worn for the rest of the season, it was still being used as the clubs away kit right up until the early 80’s.

In 77/78 Burscough arrived at Croft Park for an FA Cup 1st Round tie with their solid green home shirt. With the overcast weather conditions potentially making it difficult for the match officials Blyth were forced into wearing the old 67/68 white home shirt for the game.

The Callers brothers repeated their generosity in February 78 with the clubs next brand marked kit. They bought a new away kit for the Stoke City FA Cup 4th Round tie.
Honouring of the shirt style of the 50’s they purchased Bukta kits that had a green body and white arms.
While this kit came with white shorts and socks, as worn at Stoke, when it was used thereafter it had varying different short and sock colours combinations.
TJ scoredThe clubs famous Bukta branded striped shirts worn at Wrexham for the first time was also donated by the Callers brothers and that was also first time the club wore shorts with manufactures branding on.
The famous 77/78 season summed up the clubs kit history, three different styles of striped home shirts were worn throughout that season.

Following that  77/78 season the club was inundated with offers of green kits by various manufacturers, one extremely rare kit came in the 78/79 season.
A local derby at Ashington saw the Spartans wear a brand new all green kit made by Yorkshire firm Litesome. That kit was worn only on a handful of occasions often with black shorts & green socks before vanishing, with the all yellow Umbro away kit from 1974 being used instead.

The iconic Bukta home top served the club right through until end of 82/83 season. However in 1981 the club moved with the times and brought in a new shirt made be popular 80’s brand Le Coq Sportif.
That shirt was a first for the club, gone was the traditional cotton material, the French company used polyester fabrics.
Polyester kits had become increasingly popular and their designs more intricate as manufacturers cast an eye on the developing replica kit market.

The new home shirt featured a broader stripe and was worn with either black or green shorts and white socks.
There was also an all green Le Coq Sportif away shirt which was used with various colour shorts and socks.
Unsurprisingly it wasn’t worn exclusively and by the turn of 1982 the trusty old Bukta shirts began making an appearance from week to week.

That year was also a landmark for the club, after months of negotiating the club started the 82/83 season wearing their first ever shirt sponsor.Screen Shot 2020-03-12 at 14.52.33
Chairman Jim Turney and forwarding think Commercial Manager Mike Turnbull had realised the need for wider income streams.
The Universal Building Society was emblazoned on a large white square that was stitched onto the iconic Bukta striped tops.
The season long deal also saw the companies name adorn pitch side sponsorship boards that had started to appear around Croft Park.
For the new 1983/84 campaign there was a change of kit due to a new shirt sponsor, the Mercantile Building Society started a four year deal and had their name printed in red onto a new shirt which didn’t carry any manufactures name.
There was a new all green away kit that also carried the red lettered shirt sponsorship, however random changes in the shorts and socks colour occurred seemingly depending on what was chosen for that particular game rather than any clash with opponents colours.

For 86/87 the stripes on a new unbranded home shirt became thinner and a new Nike branded yellow away kit shirt with was introduced.
There was also a rarely used Nike red third top, it used the same black shorts and socks as the yellow kit.

  • The use of a Nike kit came about thanks to team manager Jim Pearson, the former Everton & Newcastle United striker worked for Nike as their as Head of Football in the UK. 
He played a pivotal role in the evolution of Nike into teams sports in this country.
    He was personally responsible for Nike signing deals with Arsenal and the England Rugby Union and signing up Ian Rush, Eric Cantona, David Ginola and cricketer Ian Botham to wear the Nike brand.

Screen Shot 2020-08-10 at 12.31.55A new sponsorship deal was signed in 1988 with Northumbria Bus Company and their
‘N’ logo adorned the Falcon Sportswear made home shirts. The club continued with the Nike branded away kits long after Jim Pearson had left and both the home and away shirts carried the Northumbria Buses logo long after the sponsorship deal had ended.

Screen Shot 2020-03-20 at 15.36.42As the clubs fortunes began to wane the early 90’s kit seemed to reflect this. Falcon Sportswear again supplied a plain and simple green & white unbrand marked striped shirt. Screen Shot 2020-03-20 at 15.37.10
Some enterprising Supporters Club members purchased a handful of extra shirts and took it upon themselves to get a Spartan crest added by a local embroidery shop.

The club was struggling to raise finances to the point that in late 1991 a make or break friendly with Newcastle United was arranged to help boost finances.
In early 1992 the club received a much needed lifeline when it secured sponsorship from iconic North East comic, VIZ.
It also marked the start of the Supporters Club selling replica shirts, previously only club jumpers, ties, scarves, mugs etc. had been on sale.
Even in the early 70’s Blyth shirts had only been available to buy from the towns long established sports shop, McCropps. They supplied the club with its playing kit, but ordered enough to sell to the public as well.

1st VIZContrary to what many believe the VIZ logo first appeared on the clubs kit at the end of the 1991/92 season.1st Viz On Saturday 2nd May 1992 Blyth beat North Shields at St James’ Park in the Northumberland Senior Cup Final wearing the VIZ logo for the first time.

The club had struck a deal with Belgium sportswear company Activity through it’s UK Managing Director Peter Harrison.
The shirt featured a small embroidered club badge between the green stripes on right side of the shirt.

last NL topFor the new 92/93 season Activity provided new shirt with a printed black club crest and also supplied a new yellow away kit. Both kits survived for a few years as the club did its usual changing of kits randomly from game to game.
The yellow away top was worn in the club’s last ever Northern league game at Ferryhill Athletic in April 94.

Having started selling Activity replica shirts the Supporters Club began to experience problems with supply from the company in 1993.
IMG_4391Activity also supplied shirts specifically for the Supporters Club to sell, they produce the same shirt in black & white and red & white stripes.
The shirts were never intended for team use but purely to cash in on Newcastle United & Sunderland fans who followed the club.

hogger kitCounty Durham firm Hogger Sports stepped in to help supplying identical shirts. The shirt featured a bigger club badge and had a fleece like backing to the material and only seemed toScreen Shot 2020-03-20 at 15.42.36 be worn by the team when it was cold.
Hogger followed their predecessors lead and produced black & white versions of their tops for the club to sell.

For the new 93/94 season the Supporters Club sourced a new kit supplier, Hero Sportswear. The company based in Sutton in Ashfield, Nottinghamshire already supplied kits to other Non League clubs; Northwich Victoria, Stafford Rangers, Barrow & Kidderminster Harriers.
hero kitHero Athletic & Sports stated they were: ‘Pioneering a return to a classically styled kits’, however the old fashioned tie string collar design had been already been introduced by Umbro!
The top which featured a stitched club crest on a shield proved hugely popular with the fans. It was also the first time another colour had appeared with the green stripes, a thin black line ran down either side of the each stripe.
This shirt is often wrongly stated as the first shirt to feature the VIZ logoThe bright red VIZ logo was actually a compromise, they had wanted to follow their comics humour with ‘drink beer, smoke tabs’ on the front of the shirts, unsurprisingly the FA rejected it and they settled for just their distinctive logo.

Red HeroThroughout the 93/94 season the club randomly interchanged the Hero shirts with the long sleeved Hogger tops when the weather suited long sleeves and they also used the Activity shirt on odd occasions.
There was also a rare Hero Sport red away shirt that was only ever used once in February 94 for the 5-2 win at Hebburn.
Picking up on the red away kits lack of use an enterprising club Director snapped up the little used shirts for his 5 a side team to use!

In 1994/95 the club joined the pyramid system, leaving the Northern League for the Northern Premier League. 
Activity were now the sole kit supplier having solved their supply issues, the home shirt had a white collar and white cuffs and featured a large stitched crest.
The new shirt came due to the Federation Brewery now being he club’s sponsor and it carried the logo of their popular drink; LCL Pils.
football_shirt_19858_1_375x500x1A new all white away shirts was introduced and was worn for the first time in the 1-1 draw away at Netherfield on 27th August 1994. 

This one season wonder top was last worn on the 6th May at Harrogate Town when a 2-0 win to sealed the title. The full time celebrations led to the shirts demise as supporters claimed the players shirts as souvenirs, so a new away kit was needed.

football_shirt_7280_1_446x386x1football_shirt_12804_1_484x500x1The 94/95 season home shirt saw a slight change with the collar and cuffs now being green but otherwise it was identical.
The away shirt was a yellow top with a blue collar and blue trim on the sleeves, popular with the fans it lasted lasted until the end of the following season.

In November 1995 the club reached the 1st Round of the FA Cup, Picture 4for the tie at Third Division Bury the club were supplied a special commemorative all red kit by Activity, it carried ‘FA Cup 1995/96’ embroidered under the Acitivty logo.
The shirt was identical to the style of the previous yellow away kit. Following the superb 0-2 win they also wore it again for the 2nd Round defeat at Stockport County.
After that it was only ever worn once again on 30th January 96 in the South Tyneside Football Benevolent Fund Gazette Cup tie at Hebburn. It was only worn due to the home sides black and yellow stripes clashing with Blyth’s green & white stripes and also the away kit of yellow.

football_shirt_3948_1_390x350x1Activity’s UK Managing Director Peter Harrison was installed as team manager following the win at Bury and not long after he opened his own sportswear shop.
A new ‘barcode’ style home was introduced for 96/97 and became an instant hit with the fans. The advantage of Harrison having his own shop allowed the Supporters Clubs to sell replica tops with the offer of your favourite players shirt number on the reverse.
A ‘new’ away kit was debuted at Spennymoor on 26th August 96, well it was a new colour for the club; burgundy.
The shirt itself was identical in styling to the previous yellow and red shirts, despite being popular with fans in the darker winter months many supporters commented that the colour made it difficult to see the players.

For the 97/98 season the Unibond League struck a deal with the Cumbrian based sportswear firm ICIS to be the leagues ‘preferred’ kit supplier. They were to supply teams with training kit and match balls, however from the off there was an issue with supply.
Blyth had to start the season wearing the old Activity kit, as the club officials demanded a resolution to the kit issues the team fought their way to the FA Cup 1st Round.
The Supporters Club was inundated with requests for the new kit which featured a different take on the traditional green & white stripes, a thin orange stripe ran down the middle of the white stripe. The club made a final demand to have the ICIS kit for their game at Blackpool, and ICIS guaranteed they would have the kit in time. 
To ensure they had a new kit for the game, manager John Burridge used one of his many contacts within the game and had Ulhsports produced and green & white strip for them to use in case ICIS failed to deliver on their guarantee.
ICIS did manage to supply the new kit, over 3 months late and the Spartans walked out at Bloomfield Road wearing a brand new kit.
The popular all orange kit was first worn in a 2-1 win at Radcliffle Borough on Saturday 22nd November.
Budgie’s back up Ulhsports kit did get used twice, first for a midweek training friendly against a Middlesbrough XI and it’s only public outing was in his final game as manager at St James’ Park for the 0-2 Senior Cup Final defeat to Bedlington.

Picture 8Picture 7

1999 marked the club’s centenary and the popular ICIS home and away shirts carried the clubs new centenary crest created by Kimmerton Design. The LCL Pils logo was also made larger, the kit was only worn for the 99/2000 centenary season.

football_shirt_4977_1_468x386x1For the next two seasons the clubs kit was supplied by local firm Logitog, they carried the LCL Pils logo on the front of the home kit but not on the yellow away kit.
football_shirt_13929_1_500x387x1For the first time there was a different away kit sponsor, Miller Homes were building new houses in the town and were approached by club officials about being a shirt sponsor.

football_shirt_9998_1_426x500x1In 2002/03 & 03/04 the club used kit supplied by Moette Sportswear and it carried the new rebranded LCL logo. There were also occasions a long sleeve top were worn that no sponsors on them!football_shirt_6731_1_375x368x1
The Supporters Club were finding it increasingly difficult to find green & white striped shirts especially from manufacturers who could supply the quantity of replica tops needed.
The money the Supporters Club generated from the replicas always went back into the club in the way of donations or as happened in 1999 paying for the upgrading of the ageing tannoy system.

football_shirt_5561_1_500x356x1football_shirt_9999_1_375x500x12004/05 saw a return to Nike kits but this time it was purely down to them having a green & white striped kit in their generic kit catalogue. There was also a new yellow Nike away kit that featuring blue collar and blue arms.


For three years from 2005 the club used kit by Hummel.
These shirts proved very popular with the supporters, a new sponsor was also introduced with Drager Safety on the shirts.


The away shirts went back to orange with black shorts & orange socks.
Once again it proved a popular kit colour, there was also a third kit white away kit. Different styles of Hummel kit were used up until the end of the 07/08 season.

football_shirt_7164_1_485x492x1In 2008/09 the club started to use Errea kit, the Italian companies kits were supplied by a local sportswear firm.
The 08/09 Errea home kit proved to be a classic as the club embarked on another of their famous FA Cup runs. Following a televised 2nd Round 0-0 draw at AFC Bournemouth the replay at Croft Park and subsequent 3rd Round tie with Blackburn Rovers attracted massive national media attention.
This was the first ever shirt to carry a sponsor on the back, Chairman Tony Platten’s company; Tynetec appeared above the shirt numbers. Ever since then the club have had a sponsor on the back of the shirts. 
The teams shorts had carried the VIZ logo since 07/08 season but they again fell foul of the FA over proposed a new sponsorship idea they had for the televised FA Cup games.
They had wanted a new logo, a ripped shorts effect with body hair showing, but ended up with having to settle for their logo on the shorts.

white away2010 saw the first ever acknowledgment to the club’s past with a new white away kit. Despite having had two white away shirts in recent years it was announced that the white shirt, white shorts and red socks kit was specifically based on the clubs first ever colours. 4F11C0C3-F43B-4802-A5B8-E3677D6B3E66

Differing styles of green & white Errea shirts continued to be used for the next four home kits.
In 2011 when a new shirt sponsor was needed the deal with Drager ended after 6 seasons, law firm Quantum Elite promoted one of their services
’24 Seven Claims’ on the tops for the next two seasons.

The 12/13 shirt also saw another colour appear along with the green & white stripes for the first time since 1997. The addition of a black line on the green stripe didn’t go down as well with the fans as the orange line had 15 years earlier.
In July 2013 the shirt stayed the same style as Quantum Elite continued their sponsorship but changed the branding to ‘Pro-Law’.

For the 2014/15 campaign a new shirt carried another new sponsor which was a first
for the club, Chairman Tony Platten paid for the shirt sponsorship deal himself.
Football-Hartlepool-United-v-Blyth-Spartans-AFC-FA-Cup-Second-Round-Victoria-Park-51214-Blyth-Spartans-playersHe then donated it to a local charity, ‘Community Foundation, Tyne & Wear and Northumberland’. 
The charity certainly benefited from the philanthropist chairman’s gesture as once again the club embarked on an epic FA cup run. Reaching the 3rd Round again certainly drew the media’s attention especially when the dramatic 2nd Round win at Hartlepool United was broadcast live on the BBC.

OIP-1OIP-22015/16 season saw the club use Yorkshire based sportswear company EV2.
For two seasons the same style kit was worn although it carried different sponsors for each;
Blyth Workspace then Ascent Homes.
The only difference in the shirts being the style of EV2 logo changing and the size of the club crest.
It was the kit worn when Blyth won the NPL title in 2016/17. It was a popular shirt with the fans but the Supporters Club encountered issues with sizing and supply.

Home-Kit-e1498843211774Prior to 2017/18 the club announced it had returned to their former kit and merchandise partners Errea and S08 Sportswear. While the home kit would change every season the Supporters Club stated it aimed to keep the same away kit for two seasons.Away-Kit-e1498843327369
The new home kit was bespoke, created to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the famous 77/78 FA Cup run it was based on the kit the worn then.
That season also saw a brand away kit when a striking all silver kit was introduced. The shirt had a thin green pinstripe through it proved hugely popular with the fans.
SpartansShirtIn December 2017 it was announced that as part of a series of events marking that 77/78 cup run a special one off kit would be worn for a home game based on with the kit worn in the famous 3-2 FA Cup win at Stoke City in 1978.
To mirror the shirt as close as possible there was no sponsor’s logo on the kit, the first time a home shirt had been worn in a game without a sponsor in 12 years.

bsafc_home_shirt_18_20_v2In keeping with recent designs the new bespoke home shirt for 2018/19 was also a nod to the clubs past.
Based on the iconic late 70’s & early 80’s Bukta shirt it carried the Errea branding on the arms replicating that iconic top.

The 2019/20 season saw another landmark in the clubs kit sponsorship when for the first time a sleeve sponsor was added. Home & away shirts carry the office supplies company; SOS Group Ltd logo.
The next three season saw new shirts sponsors for each season, although the 19/20 & 20/21 campaigns were cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
away shirtshome shirts

TEXO adorned the 19/20 home and away tops, the all blue away kit was a brand new colour for the clubs kit. 20/21 saw Complete Fabrication Services logo, CFS, on the new home & away kits. The away was yet another new colour with a ecru & maroon shirt added to the clubs ever expanding away kit palette.
21/22 saw another new shirt sponsor, the CEFO Group logo adorning the new home kit and the all maroon away kit.

IMG_0355IMG_0354In May 2022 the club announced it had signed a 3 year deal sponsorship deal with TEXO and they would to return as shirt sponsor.
It will be the 3rd different shirt sponsor in 3 years and TEXO are the 4th company to appear twice as shirt sponsor, it is the longest deal since 2011. 
The home shirt has a round collar for the first time in 50 years and was inspired by the home shirt worn back in the early 70’s.
The new away shirt once again added another new colour to the away shirt palette, lilac. The half lilac and dark blue blue shirt is the first half & half shirts the club have ever had, 22/23 season will be the 3rd season in a row with a brand new away kit colour.

List of the clubs playing kit sponsors –
2022/23 –
Front of shirt – TEXO
Back of shirt – JFS Torbitt
Sleeve – SOS Group
Front of shirt – CEFO Group
Back of shirt – JFS Torbitt
Sleeve – SOS Group
2020/21 – 
Front of shirt – CFS
Back of shirt – JFS Torbitt
Sleeve – SOS Group
Front of shirt – TEXO
Back of shirt – JFS Torbitt
Sleeve – SOS Group
Front of shirt – Community Foundation
Back of shirt – JFS Torbitt
2016 > 2018
Front of shirt – Ascent Homes
Back of shirt – JFS Torbitt
Front of shirt – Blyth Workspace
Back of shirt – JFS Torbitt
Front of shirt – Community Foundation
Back of shirt – JFS Torbitt
Back of shorts – 24 Seven Claims
2013/14 – 
Front of shirt – PRO-LAW.CO.UK
Back of shirt – JFS Torbitt
2011 > 2013
Front of shirt – 24
Back of shirt – JFS Torbitt
2008 > 2011
Front of shirt – Drager
Back of shirt – Tynetec
Back of shorts – VIZ
2005 > 2008
2003 > 2005 –
Shirt –  LCL
2000 > 2002
Shirt – MILLER HOMES (Away shirts only)
1994 > 2003
Shirt – LCL PILS
1992 > 1994
Shirt – VIZ
1988 > 1992
1986 > 1988
1983 > 1986
1982 > 1983

Screenshot 2021-09-10 at 06.48.47List of the Clubs kit manufactures – 
ERREA2018/19 to date 
EV2 – 2016/17 & 17/18
ERREA2008/09 > 15/16
HUMMEL2005/06 > 07/08
MOETTE2002/03 & 03/04
LOGITOG2000/01 & 01/02
ICIS1997/98 > 99/00
ULHSPORTS1998 – 1 off kit for NSC Final 
ACTIVITY1994/95 > 97/98
HOGGER  1993/94
FALCON1988/89 > 91/92
NIKE1986 > 1988
LE COQ SPORTIF1981/82 & 82/83
LITESOME1980/81 & 1981/82 away kit only
BUKTA1977/78 > 81/82
UMBRO1974/75* > 77/78
* 1st ever brand marked kit

  • As shown the history of the clubs colours and kits is quite varied, researching and documenting it proved quite a task but ultimately a worthwhile one.

     after hours and hours of searching through various archived local newspaper records 
    the actual reason for the choice of green & stripes stripes has disappointingly proved elusive. Sadly there appears to be no record to be found as to why or indeed whom made that choice. 
    I will continue to search in the hope that one day I can somehow find out why our clubs famous colours where chosen.


Acknowledgements and Thank you’s  –

The late Ken Sproat’s superb book ‘The History of Blyth Spartans’ was as ever an important source of information.

Michael Scott’s book ‘and then the corner flag fell down,’ reflecting on his years supporting the club provided important information used.

Ian Hertwick of Blyth Spartans Supporters Club for supplying the graphics of the clubs kits and information on past kits and his memory of the kits sponsors.

Phil Castiaux for his help with the history of the clubs crests and of course his involvement in the actual crest itself.

Jeff Young for his superb knowledge of the clubs kits and use of his extensive collection of Blyth shirts.

Kevin Tilmouth for his use of his unique Spartans memorabilia collection and his vast knowledge of the club.

Andrew Tilmouth our use of his superb collection of Blyth shirts.

The superb British Newspaper Archive was a valuable source of information on the club’s history.

The following excellent football shirt website provided valued images and information used within this article –

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Born in Blyth – Albert Juliussen

Born in Blyth No. 3  – Albert Juliussen

Screenshot 2021-07-02 at 07.45.44Albert Lawrence Juliussen was born Friday 20th February 1920 to Norwegian parents, his father was a sailor who had settled in Blyth.

Screenshot 2021-07-01 at 07.37.35With the family living in Ninth Avenue he attended Princes Louise Road School, despite his small size compared to other boys and his sports teachers initial reservations Albert was the star of the school team.
He represented Blyth Schools Team between 1932 and 1934 and was also capped 4 times for Northumberland Boys.

He signed for Blyth & District League side Barrington United as a 15 year old and it was his performance against the Spartans Reserves on Saturday 9th November 1935 that led to Blyth signing the ‘clever outside left’.
A member of the Spartans Reserve team for the 1936/37 season he was unable to break into the first team and left to join East Cramlington Black Watch.
After a couple of seasons developing and growing he began attracting the attentions of league scouts, two former Spartans were interested.
Blyth’s first ever manager Ernie Hoffman, now secretary at Birmingham City traveled up to watch the inside forward in the 4-0 in win over West Moor on 19th March 1938.
While Birmingham waited and watched him in further games, he went to Leeds United on trial in September 1938. He played two Central League games for them and also their games for their ‘A’ team and United looked certain to sign him.
However it was a former Blyth player, now Huddersfield manager; Clem Stephenson who on a visit home had seen Albert play and landed his signature.
As an 18 year old apprentice he played for the Reserve team in 39/40 before Clem Stephenson helped out his former club and their hometown and loaned Albert to the Spartans.

The Northern Eastern League had been suspended following the outbreak of WWII but plans for a Wartime League were under discussion.
19 year old ‘Julie‘ made a scoring debut on Saturday 30 September 1939 in the 2-1 home friendly win over Ashington.
He scored in his next four appearances, including winning his first honour in the game when Blyth beat Ashington 3-2 in the Aged Miners Homes Cup on Saturday 14th October.
The Wartime North Eastern League started on Saturday 21st October when he scored both the 2-0 away win at West Stanley.

He played 6 times in all scoring 5 before this loan was brought to an abrupt halt, on Thursday 2nd November the club received word from Clem Stephenson informing them he was recalling Albert in order for him to play for them in the Wartime ‘North East Division’.
He was part of the Huddersfield side that won the league title by 9 points over 2nd place Newcastle United.

Screenshot 2021-07-02 at 14.41.05In 1941 as the war intensified he joined the Duke of Wellington Regiments and was enlisted and stationed in Dundee and Perth with the Black Watch as a PT instructor, it was during his time in Scotland that he really made a name for himself.
He soon became part of their all conquering regiment team which played their games at Dens Park.
In one incredible army game he scored six goals in the first half for a 6-0 lead and 45 minutes later it finished 6-5 with Albert having scored all 11 goals after been ordered to switch sides at half time!

Dundee United were first off the mark to spot his potential and he officially joined the Tannadice side on loan as a trialist having gained permission off Huddersfield Town.
His goal scoring prowess was immediately displayed hitting six in one match against St Bernards in a Scottish League North-East Division match.
He scored five against Rangers before being carried off, he is still the only United player to ever score a hat-trick against Aberdeen.
In 42/43 season he frequently guested with Jeanfield Swifts and spent the next season at the Perth based club, before returning to United for 44/45.

Dundee boss George Anderson had the centre-forward in his sights upon the club’s resumption towards the end of the war. Despite strong interest from Aberdeen they agreed record fee of £3,000 with his parent club Huddersfield. 
On Monday 14th May 1945 he did play for Aberdeen as a guest when they faced an All Star Air Force XI as part of their seven day tour of the North and the North East, he scored they only goal in a 1-5 defeat. He already faced the RAF’S two star player Stanley Matthews & Stan Mortensen when playing for a Combined Services XI against the RAF side at Links Park, Montrose.

He actually signed for The Dee on the morning of the first game of the new 45/46 campaign and made an astonishing start to his Dark Blue career when he scored with his first touch in a 2-1 home victory over East Fife.

Now developed into a strong physical centre-forward, known to the fans as “The Cannonball Kid’ he possessed a tremendous left foot shot. In one match against Alloa he inadvertently knocked out keeper Frank Harper three times with howitzers which all ended up in the back of the net!
His most famous feat came with that win over Alloa scoring 6 goals in the 10-0 win only to follow this up with 7 goals in another 10-0 over Dunfermline just a week later. At one point the Dunfermline keeper stepped aside when ‘Julie’ was bearing down on him saying ‘you can have it’.
His shoot-on-sight policy brought him 42 goals out of a total of 120 as they won the B Division title by ten points from East Fife.
IMG_7539They had been relegated to the second tier on the eve of the Second World War but the first full season back upon the cessation of hostilities was considered by the Scottish League to be unofficial as clubs were given a year’s grace to ‘put their house in order’.
With so many guests and loan players at clubs and many players still in military service, it was decided that there would be no promotion and relegation in the 45/46, so to return to the top flight they would have to win the league all over again.

Incredibly they did just that and this time bettered the previous season’s goal tally 130 goals in 35 league and cup games. On the way to winning their second championship, Dundee put themselves into the record books with astonishing back to back 10-0 victories.
On Saturday 8
th March they ran up a 10-0 win over Alloa Athletic at Recreation Park and ‘Julie‘, who had recently been playing at outside-left, celebrated his return to a central position with six goals.

Dundee’s first season back in the A Division saw them finish a credible fourth and ‘Julie’ was again top scorer with 20 goals in all competitions, proving he could score as easily in the top flight.
Screenshot 2021-07-01 at 07.41.11Towards the end of the season he had indicated to manager George Anderson that he wished to return back south and just after scoring in his last game against Falkirk in March, he signed for Portsmouth for a fee of £10,000.
£7,000 more than they had paid for him three years earlier and a record fee received for a Dundee player at that time.

He had scored spectacular goals and become a cult hero with the Dundee support, his sudden departure sparked a barrage of criticism but George Anderson was adamant that there was no room for unhappy players at Dens Park.
‘Julie’ was a goal scoring machine in his time in Dark Blue scoring 95 goals in 73 appearances, his seven goals against Dunfermline is a joint club record with Alan Gilzean.
He brought hope and joy to a war weary Dundee, his goals fired Dundee back into the big time.

  • During his time living in Dundee he had meet Wilma Lee and on Monday 15th SeptemberScreenshot 2021-07-02 at 14.34.20 1947 they were married. Such was his star status in the town news of their marriage ceremony taking place drew a crowd of 300 fans to greet them as they left registrars office in City Square.
    Also lying in waiting were his Dundee teammates who placed a large wooden shoe horse around his neck hosted him aloft and triumphantly carried him to the near by Royal British Hotel where the reception was being held.

Having made the move down south he struggled to settle on the south coast, suffering an alleged illness that delayed his Pompey debut.
27 year old ‘Julie’ would only make 7 appearances in total amid rumours that it was the warmer air on the south coast that he was struggling with due to a bronchial condition!
His Pompey came on Saturday 13th March in the 1-0 defeat at Blackburn Rovers, he then made his home debut in the 1-0 win over Man City as week later.
On Saturday 14th April he showed his true ability scoring a hat trick in the 6-1 hammering of Middlesbrough at Fratton Park. He would scored once more in the 2-0 win at Everton on 24th April.
Screenshot 2021-07-02 at 14.49.48In September 1948 New Toffee’s boss, Cliff Britton having been impressed when he encountered him against his former club Burnley, decided to pay a then club record for ‘Bert‘.
Trying to sort out their forward problems he felt the £10,500 was good value for the a player who struggled to settle at Portsmouth hoping a move back north might suit him better.

He made his debut on Saturday 4th September in the 0-5 home defeat to Birmingham City, but the Everton fans and local press were far from impressed with their new signing after his debut!
His only goal for the Toffee’s came four days after his debut. He scored the open win the 2-1 home win over Stoke City. He would go on to make only another 8 appearances for the club before an injury at St Jame’s Park on 18th December in the 0-1 defeat to Newcastle effectively ended his Everton career.
All may not have been as it seemed, however, legend has it that even in the communal bath he insisted on keeping his football socks on, and it was rumoured that he had varicose viens – not ideal for a First Division footballer.

Having recovered he was placed on the transfer list and he headed back up to Scotland looking for a new club, with no offer forthcoming he moved back to the Northumberland coast settling in Newbiggin.
While he technically remained an Everton player available for transfer it was agreed he’d be allowed to carry on playing part time.
AJ bidBlyth Spartans stepped in straight away making him an offer to join them for the 49/50 North Eastern League campaign. It was the best offer the club had ever made to a player and despite being confident of bringing ‘Julie’ back to Croft Park and even offering him a job as part of the deal they faced competition for his signature.
Aside from local rivals North Shields being interested, Welsh side Bangor City also made him an offer.
The Lancashire Combination League side were managed by his former Huddersfield teammate; George Richardson. He hoped to be able to entice him to North Wales but to everyone’s surprise it was Blyth’s North Eastern League rivals Consett FC who captured his signature. He accepted their offer of the post to become their first ever Player Manager and a package that included a house and a job.
Having recently applied to join the Football League the Steelmen had big ambitions and saw ‘Julie’ as the man to help drive the club forward. Screenshot 2021-07-23 at 18.15.07
He made his debut on the opening day of 49/50 season in the 1-0 home whin over Carlisle United Reserves, but the disappointment of the huge crowd he didn’t score.
They didn’t have to wait long he bagged his first goal in the second game as they beat Eppleton CW 2-1.
He went on to score 24 goals that season, including two in the famous 5-4 win over the mighty Bishop Auckland, who team included three England Amateur Internationals in a Durham Challenge cup tie played in front of a record crowd at Leadgate.
Despite scoring 24 goals, to most Consett fans his most valuable contribution came on Saturday 8th April 1950 at Roker Park Sunderland, when his goal beat Spennymoor united to win the Durham Challenge Cup Final.
They finished the season in 12th place, but hopes were high for a better showing the following season, as they moved into their new Belle Vue Park ground, which had been funded by the sale of players to Football League clubs, and built by volunteers from the town’s steelwork when they weren’t on shift!

The opening match on Saturday 19th August 1950 was preceded by a civic parade through the town with the cup which Julie’s goal had secured. Sunderland Reserves were the visitors in a North Eastern League game. 
A crowd of 7,000 – which would never be bettered during Consett’s 63 years at the ground – saw the Ironworkers show their mettle by beating the Rokermen’s reserves 3-1, ‘Julie’ scored the third goal.

If his first season in Consett colours had been impressive, the second was even more so – he plundered 41 goals. His haul included four in a 6-1 league cup defeat of Middlesbrough Reserves, and he also bagged a brace against Boro in the league, and repeated the trick against the second strings of Sunderland and Darlington.
It was to little avail though; Consett finished 13th, a place lower than the previous season, and ‘Julie’, who spent most of his time with the club playing inside-left rather than his usual centre-forward role, decided to move on.

He did leave by delivering silverware of sorts though: his final game was a 1-1 North Eastern League Challenge Cup final draw with Stockton, which there was no time to re-play, so the trophy was shared, with each club keeping it for six months.

Screenshot 2021-07-02 at 07.42.59In August 1951 he got back into the professional game when Berwick Rangers struck a deal with Everton who still had him on their transfer list valued at £10,000.
However Rangers brokered a deal where they got him for free on the provision that Everton got the first £5,000 of any future sale if he was to be transferred again for a fee of over £5,000.
Player Manager Bobby Ancell’s side had just been elected to the Scottish League C Division and ‘Julie’ was a star for the two seasons at Shiels Park. He was highest paid player they had ever had up to that point, he was also on a bonus if he fired them to promotion and bagged 30 goals in the process. They provided him with a house and he had plans to settle and become a market gardener in the town.
A year into his time at Berwick he was touted for the managers job after Bobby Ancell left to join Dunfermline in April 1952. Despite being the fans choice he wanted to concentrate on playing and John Thompson was appointed the new manager.

IMG_7570In June 1953 it was announced that he had signed for Dundee United. He left Berwick having been a huge success in his two years, he scored 49 goals and is the clubs 9th all time leading goal scorer.

His return Perthshire wasn’t as successful as his previous time there. Playing only 3 games for United in Division B scoring twice before moving to Brechin City who were top of Division C with only three games to left of the 53/54 season.
City easily saw off Montrose before their stern test against East Fife ‘A’.
‘Julie’ scored the goal in the 1-0 win that put them within a victory of the Division C title.
400 City fans made the trip to Glasgow for the winner takes all game against Celtic ‘A’. The game attracted an 11,000 crowd and unsurprisingly it was ‘Julie’ who got the goal to seal a 1-0 win and the Division B title.
It was a fitting swan song to the career of the 34 year old forward who then retired from the game.
The family settled back in Dundee were he ran a bar on Albert Street, and the name of the bar, The Albert!

IMG_7571Sadly he passed away on 6th April 1982 aged only 62.

  • From a Princess Louise Road school boy once thought to be too small for his school team Albert became a legend of Scottish football.
    In the years directly after WWII he was the star footballer in Scotland, the ultimate forward.
    Tall strong and hard running he scored goals for fun.

    He had worked hard to make it and fully deserved all the adulation he got, little surprise he is a footballing legend in Dundee. 


Credits, Acknowledgements & Thank you’s:

Consett FC historian Gary Welford for supplying the information on Albert’s time at the club. 

The late Ken Sproat’s superb book ‘The History of Blyth Spartans’ was as ever an important source of information.

The superb British Newspaper Archive was a vital source of info on Albert’s career.

The following websites provided important info and images –

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Born in Blyth – Stephen Raffell

No. 2 – Stephen Raffell RIP

ImageBorn Monday 27th April 1970.
Playing for the hugely successful Cramlington Juniors he had trials with Nottingham Forest before joining Doncaster Rovers Youth set up aged 16.

He was key member of the Rovers much acclaimed Youth Team which reached the FA Youth Cup Final in 1987-88, losing on aggregate to Arsenal.

Earlier that season he had made his senior debut on 23rd September when Rovers faced Arsenal’s first team in a League Cup 2nd Round tie, he kept his place for the 2nd Leg at Highbury, they lost 0-4 on aggregate.

While breaking into Rovers first team in his natural position as a central defender Steve was twice called upon as an emergency goalkeeper for the first team in 88/89.
Once when keeper Paul Malcolm was sent off, the other when the tall stopper suffered a broken leg.IMG_7529
In all, he made 63 senior appearances for Rovers in 2 seasons before leaving in the summer of 1990. He had a trial with Division Four Walsall but not offer was forthcoming.

Former Doncaster Player Manager David Cusack had been appointed Player Manager of GM Vauxhall Conference Boston United and knowing Steve well from their time at Rovers quickly signed him up for the 90/91 season.
He made his debut in the 4-1 league home win over Fisher Athletic on 22nd August.
Image 2
Stephen spent 2 successful seasons at United making 52 appearances before returning to his native North East in the summer of 1992.

He was quickly signed up by Blyth manager Ronnie Walton as he continued to build a young talented side.
He made his debut on Wednesday 12th August in the 4-1 Cleator Cup Final win over Murton. He would go on to make 45 appearances that season with his experienced at a higher level clear to see.

IMG_7470In 93/94 season under the new management of Peter Feenan he played in 45 of the 49 games in the club’s final season in the Northern League. 

In his 3rd season, 94/95, he had his 3rd manager as Harry Dunn took charge of the club’s first season in the Northern Premier League.

In October 94 after only 8 appearances and unable to command a regular starting place due to stiff competition with four other centre half’s; John Gamble, Shaun Dunn, Laurie Pearson & Warren Teasdale, he decided to move on to guarantee regular football and joined the growing band of former Spartans at Bedlington Terriers.

He agreed that manager Harry Dunn retain his registration in case he was ever ‘needed’ and with players struggling for time off to make a midweek FA Trophy replay at Colwyn Bay in February Steve was more than happy to step in.

With Blyth battling for promotion and facing 10 games in April, Harry Dunn brought Steve back to Croft Park permanently. He played a vital role partnering John Gamble as Blyth won the First Division title and the First Division Cup.Screenshot 2021-06-17 at 07.47.29

In 95/96 when Blyth reached the FA Cup 2nd Round for the first time in 15 years and finished 6th in the NPL Premier Division he made 36 appearances and was voted the Supporters Club Player of the Season.
A season that also saw him play under his 4th Blyth manager !.

96/97 saw him play under yet another manager when John Burridge replaced Peter Harrison, he made 36 appearances winning the Presidents Cup when Blyth beat Runcorn.

In the summer of 1997 he moved to Manchester to further his career as a teacher and was quickly snapped up by league rivals Hyde United.
He made his Tigers debut on 22nd September 97 in the 1-0 home win over Emley, he played 8 more games before signing for NPL 1st Division Trafford, winning the First Division Cup in his first season at the club.

He played 88 games for ‘The North’ winning the Presidents Cup in his final season before hanging up his boots aged 30 to concentrate on his job as a teacher.
His final game came back in the North East on 6th May 2000 when he came on as sub on Trafford’s final league game of the season at Whitley Bay.

IMG_8722On 15th November 2000 Stephen took up his other great sporting love, rugby.
He signed for Orrell RUFC and played consistent first team rugby for over a decade.            
He was highly respected on and off the field not only by his team mates but opposing players as well.

Thursday 2nd December 2021 brought the tragic news that Stephen had sadly away aged only 51.
He had been diagnosed with MND in 2017 and had been bravely battling the illness like the true Spartan warrior he was.
The news brought an out pouring of sorrow and glowing tributes from his former teammates in both football and rugby. Teammates and supporters alike to a person stated what a genuinely great guy Stephen was.

  • Stephen played a total of 178 for his hometown club in an ‘eventful’ period in the clubs history.
    He played under 5 different permanent managers, a caretaker manager and a Coach & Director of Football and in 3 different leagues.
    He played a vital role in the club’s transition from Northern League to Northern Premier League.

    His honours as a Spartan –
    94/95 –
    NPL 1st Division title

    NPL 1st Division Cup
    Senior Cup Runners Up medal

    95/96 –
    FA Cup 2nd Round appearance
    Senior Cup Runners Up medal

    96/97 –
    Presidents Cup winner.

Always reliable, he was able play anywhere along the back four and often played in midfield, Raff was very much an unsung hero of Blyth Spartans. 

RIP Stephen.

Taken far too soon he’ll never be forgotten.
The Blyth lad who lived the dream in becoming a professional football and playing for his hometown club. 


Acknowledgements & Thank you’s…

Thanks to Christian James the oracle of Boston United stats for providing images of Stephen at United – @bsotonutdstats

Thanks to @FCTrafford for providing details of Stephen’s time at Trafford Football Club.

The excellent Boston United History website –
provided all the details of Stephen’s time at United.

The excellent Hyde United History website –
provided all the details of Stephen’s time at Hyde.


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Born in Blyth – Micky Pink

This new series that features players that were born in the town and played for the club some stage of their careers.

No. 1 – Micky Pink

Michael Pink was born Friday 24th October 1947.G.Smith&M.Pink

He attended Morpeth Road Primary and Bebside Primary, playing for his school and then Blyth Boys from 1957 to 59.

Attending Blyth Grammar School from 1959 to 66 he starred for the school teams and was selected to play for the Northumberland County team.

He was signed by Blyth Spartans in October 1965 making his debut on 30th October in the 2-4 league defeat at home to Evenwood days after his 18th birthday.

His first goal for his hometown club came on Saturday 13th November, scoring the winner in the 1-0 league win at home to Billingham Synthonia.

In December 1965 he fell foul of the Grammar School Headteacher,

Mick rejected his selection for the Northumberland County Grammar School side in order to play for the Spartans! 

The Headteacher, Mr Lloyd, was so furious that he wrote a letter to Mick’s parents (which the family still have) he suggested Mick’s conduct might seriously prejudice his ambitions of gaining acceptance into any teacher training college. 

The letter also mentioned that Mick had been invited for a trial at Leicester City FC but that the Head had refused permission, as it was during school time! 

In January 66 Mick did have a trial for Chelsea FC, as it took place on a Saturday Mr Lloyd was unable to stop it.

Chelsea boss Tommy Docherty was so impressed he invited Mick for a second trial but, yet again, Mr Lloyd intervened and refused permission as it was midweek!

Moving away to pursue his ambitions of being a teacher he attended Chester PE College (now Chester University) from 66 to 69 where he played for the college team. 

He then taught PE in Liverpool from 69 to 73, while on Merseyside he played for Marine FC for 3 seasons.

In the 70/71 Cheshire League season he finished top scorer with 14 goals, he also briefly played Ormskirk FC at start of the 73/74 season.

7475 TEAM PICIn September 1973 he returned home to take up a teaching post in Newcastle.
Naturally he rejoined the Spartans and lived only 150 yards from Croft Park.

His first goal back was also against Billingham Synthonia on 1st September in the 2-1 home win.

He scored 16 goals in his first season back, as Blyth lost out on the title after a ‘Championship Play Off’ defeat to Spennymoor.

colour team NEWIn the Invincible’s 74/75 season he forged a great partnership with Brian Slane.
Micky played every single game of the season scoring 23 as Blyth went the entire league season unbeaten and he even got to play against 2 of England’s 1966 World Cup heroes in the FA Cup when Blyth faced Preston North End.

On Wednesday 16th April he scored the winner at St James Park as Blyth beat Blue Star 2-1 to win Senior Cup Final.

A feat he repeated in the 1976 Final when Blyth drew 1-1 with North Shields.
He scored the clubs first goal of the 76/77 season in the 1-1 opening day draw at Horden.

However after 13 more appearances which brought 6 more goals his Blyth career sadly came to an abrupt end.

74 team

Back Row (LtoR): Dave Burowski, Alan Cruddace, John Lang, Ronnie Phillipson, Micky Pink, Mick Third, Ronnie Scott, Alan O’Neill. Front Row (Lto R): Mickey Lister, Gordon Smith, Eddie Alder, Brian Slane, Mick Dagless, Ian Nixon. Inset Gerry Donoghue.

On Saturday 29th January 77 he badly broke his leg in a clash with Whitby’s goalkeeper John Hope in the 0-2 away league defeat.

He did recover and singed for North Shields for the 77/78 season, he made 8 appearances scoring his first goal for the Robins on 19th November in the 4-0 away league victory. However after picking up an injury he left North Shields and ending his playing career  Sunday football for Bedlington.

Mick’s 62 goals in his 165 appearances for the clubs put him in 31st place in the all time goalscorer list.

His honours as a Spartan include –

1973/74  – 

FA Cup 2nd Round appearance

Northern League Runners Up medal

Senior Cup Winners medal 

1974/75 –

FA Cup 1st Round appearance 

Northern League Winners medal

Senior Cup Winners medal 

1975/76 –

Rothmans Cup Final Runners Up Medal 

Senior Cup Runners Up Medal

It quite easy to see why Micky Pink is a Blyth legend.

Thank yous and acknowledgements –

A massive thank you to Mick’s daughter Suzanne for supplying me with loads of great information on her father.

Thanks once again to North Shields FC Chairman Alan Matthews for providing details of Micky’s time with them.



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Green & White Cult Heroes – Terry Johnson

Screen Shot 2021-02-17 at 09.35.30Certain names are synonymous with specific events in the history of this great club.
Upon hearing the name; Terry Johnson
your instantly taken back to the famous events of 1977/78.

Terry joined the Spartans in July 1977 with a pedigree of over 250 Football League appearances.
He would never have imagined that stepping down into part time football would propel him to a level of fame far greater than his years in the professional game.

However, but for the sake of having a passport it could have been a very different career for one of the most legendary Spartans ever.

IMG_6751Born 30th August 1949 in Benton, Newcastle Terry had started playing for his school team and then South East Northumberland Boys when he was spotted by United.
Playing for United’s Under 18 teams he signed as a professional aged 17; on exactly the same day Dave Clarke signed for United.

Terry played for United’s Junior and Central League teams, he was top scorer with 34 goals in his first season playing in the Central League and was highly rated by the club’s coaching staff.
IMG_4916He had been training with the first team since the start of the 68/69 season.
Having impressed the management, he was part of the travelling party for the  4-1 win at Ipswich on 12th October 68.
He was then named as a sub for the 0-1 defeat at Stoke City on 7th December 68, but never got on despite United needing a goal.
On 21st December Terry was again included in the party to travel down to London for the QPR game but this time missed out on being named as a sub for the 1-1 draw in which his Reserve team strike partner Alan Foggon scored.

Joe Harvey and his management team had finally planned to give Terry his big break, United were due to play in Spain in the Inter Cities Fairs Cup 3rd Round on New Years Day 1969.
NO PASSPORTBeing picked ahead of £75,000 summer signing Jackie Sinclair for the 1st Leg tie at Real Zaragoza was his big opportunity.
But there was one very big snag, 19 year Terry didn’t have a passport!

Club officials tried get him one but due to the time of year and the quick turn needed it couldn’t happen in time.
Heartbreakingly he had to stay behind in Newcastle while Sinclair took his place on the plane to Spain.IMG_6754
That was as close as he ever got to breaking into the first team, despite being a first team squad member for the 69/70 season he never got a look in.

In October 1969 Hartlepool boss Angus McLean approached Joe Harvey about taking Terry on loan. While United were open to the deal, Terry was not so keen to join the 4th Division side: “I’m afraid I just didn’t fancy the set up down there. I’ve decided to make this my make-or-break season at Newcastle, so I’m staying put until the end of the season at least”, he told The Newcastle Journal.
TJ to Darlo loan 11:11:69A month on and Joe Harvey felt Terry needed the experience he would gain from a loan playing in the Football League. TJ Darlo loan
With a continued lack of first team opportunities, on 11th November he finally agreed to go out on loan and spent November at Darlington.
He played four games for Ray Yoeman’s Fourth Division side scoring once.

Screen Shot 2021-02-18 at 11.04.46Now the owner of a passport, he was included in the squad for United’s end season tour of North America & Canada.
Screen Shot 2021-02-18 at 11.06.28It proved a great success for Terry, he got games on the three week tour and even scored in the 4-3 win over Vancouver Spartans on 18th May.
Off the back of that successful tour he felt his chance would come in new the season, but again it never happened despite continuing to impress for the Reserves.
He could only watch on at the thought of what could have been as his Reserve team strike partner Alan Foggon carved out first team career.

In January 1971 Newcastle’s management decided to ‘have clear’ out and made it known they were open to offers for several players.
Unsurprisingly Terry was one of them, in his last season he scored 15 Central League goals but his time as a Newcastle player ended in frustration.
He received yellow cards in three consecutive games, it led to a £25 fine a two week suspended sentence and being ordered to take a referee’s course on the rules of the game!

SUFC MoveUnited were not short of offers for their players and Terry was on the radar of an unlikely Fourth Division club.
All time record goalscorer in English League football, Arthur Rowley was enduring a tough time as Southend manager and was on the look out for talented young hungry players and had been tipped off about Terry.

TJ SUFCOn Tuesday 19th January Rowley drove up to Wolverhampton to watch Terry play for United’s reserves, despite the 0-2 defeat he was suitably impressed with the 21 year old.
Rowley arrived in Newcastle on 26th January to meet the two players he wanted, Terry and wing half Dave Elliott.
While Elliott asked for time to visit the area before making a decision, there was no such hesitation from Terry.
TJ NUFC to SUFC Jan 71Having taken advice from the legendary Jackie Milburn he had already decided to leave and forge a career elsewhere, accepting the move straight away with a £7,000 fee being agreed between the clubs.

A move down to Essex to play for a club struggling near the foot of the Fourth Division may have seemed a strange choice for someone born and brought up on Tyneside but it proved an inspired one.
SUF DebutTerry and he was an instant hit, three days after signing, Friday 29th January, he was handed his debut. IMG_6728
He instantly delivered scoring the winner in the 1-0 win over York City at Roots Hall.
He played in their final 21 games of the season scoring 8 goals as United climbed to safety with a 17th place finish.
Screenshot 2021-02-18 at 07.12.18
Having missed out on a foreign adventure a year and half earlier, July 1971 provided Terry with a taste of European football but the destination was a surprise. Southend officials arranged a pre season tour of the Soviet Union!
TJ SUFC 2They played four games against Soviet teams and in return Shahkter Donesk would visit England in the November to help cover the cost of the trip behind the Iron Curtain.
The tour was a success despite losing all four games but Terry did become the only ever Southend United player to score in the Soviet Union, in the 1-2 defeat to FC Metallurg Lipetsk on 31st July.

  • Come the November when Shahktar were due in England the political landscape had changed. United officials had arranged for them to also play St Johnstone, Oxford & Bristol City but a week before they were due they cancelled the tour.
    An embargo had been placed on all sporting & cultural visitors to Britain so United officials were left out of pocket and unable to recoup anything from the summer trip to the Soviet Union.

SUFC promotionThe 1971/72 season proved to be a great one for the club, Terry was a virtual ever present playing as a winger scoring vital goals as they finished Runners Up and gained the club’s first ever promotion.
The step up a Division didn’t prove an issue as Terry rose to the challenge, they finished a comfortable 14th. He was awarded Player of the Year for his performances in 72/73.

In November 74 Terry was the subject of an approach by long time admirers Brentford.
Having been promoted to Division Three with United in 72 the Bees hadn’t fared as well and were relegated the following season.
They knew all about Terry’s abilities from that season United had pipped them to Runners Up spot by a single point.
TJ to BFCBees boss Mike Everitt had agreed the £15,000 transfer but Terry had to decided if he wanted to drop down a league. Eventually he felt a change was needed, after all he’d achieved with the Shrimpers he’d surprisingly become the target of barracking by some of the fans.

Once again he scored on his debut, 16th November 74 he scored the second in a 2-3 defeat at Hartlepool United.
He would score another seven in his 30 appearances that season as they finished 8th under new manager John Docherty.
1975/76 saw a strong start to the season, they won three and drew three of the first six league matches of the season.
They advanced to the League Cup 2nd Round only to lose to Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Terry scored 14 in his 46 appearances, he was second top goal scorer and made the second highest number of appearances although they finished in 18th, just 3 points about the re-election zone.

IMG_4911Football wise the move proved a good one, moving to live in Greater London less so. In February 76 he asked to be placed on the transfer list with the view to hopefully moving closer to home.
Terry, his wife and young daughter were living in a club owned house, they had wanted their own property but simply couldn’t afford one.
Having started on a basic wage of £45 per week, he had asked for a £5 wage rise at the end of his first season but that was refused, having only been at the club eight months he accepted the decision.

At the end of a good 75/76 season, Terry felt in a stronger position so asked for a pay rise. Bees flamboyant Yugoslavian Chairman, Dan Tana informed him that he had wanted to give all his players a £15 pw rise but the club were only allowed to give them a £6 rise due to government restrictions!

76/77 started three consecutive defeats, he scored the clubs first goal of the campaign in the 2-2 draw at home to Doncaster Rovers on 4th September. He also scored in the first win on 18th September as they beat Southport 3-0.
100% pensFrom a wide midfield birth he scored 8 in 25 appearances, with 3 penalties he had a 100% record from the spot.
On the 11th December Brentford played Colchester away in an FA Cup tie, it led to Terry being ruled out for eight weeks.
On a frozen Layer Road pitch he fell and broke his arm, after being subbed the game was then abandoned due to the deteriorating icy conditions!
After eight weeks in a cast he returned to first team action on 22nd February and duly scored the opening goal in a 3-0 home win over Rochdale.

Rochdale were also the opposition in what would proved to be Terry’s last ever game as a professional on Saturday 14th May 1977, the Bee’s won 3-2.
His last ever goal as a pro came on the ground he first played a Football League game some 7 years earlier when he scored in the 2-2 draw with Darlington at Feethams on 2nd April 77.

At the end of the season the family went away on holiday, after discussions with wife while on holiday he decided to call time on his professional career. They decided to move back up North, having become homesick due to the struggle to live down south.
In July upon returning from holiday he spoke with his manager Bill Dodgin and informed him of his decision.
In a last attempt to keep his midfielder Dodgin then offered him a new wage of £65 per week from the £51 he had been on, but it was too late his decision was made.
Dodgin understood his feelings and the families situation that had led to the decision.
left BFCKnowing he was still under contract Terry feared Dodgin may be somewhat annoyed, even vindictive when he asked if he would be allowed to play for a local side. Terry was grateful of his managers understanding whole of the situation, they agreed on the provision they kept his registration. 
In an interview with the Brentford Gazette and Post
Terry explained:
“After three years of struggling on the wages, I felt it was just hopeless and decided to quit. With a wife and young daughter to support I just couldn’t manage it. We were in a club house, but wanted to buy our own place, and there was no chance down here on those wages, I couldn’t carry on living on the wages”.

On 14th July the Gazette and Post broke the news that Terry had ‘quit’ the club and was already back in the North East and about to take up a job as an assistant manager at a chemical warehouse.
The Spartans swooped and signed him straight away after coach Jackie Marks heard from a contact that Terry was back home.
Chairman Jim Turney then had to negotiate with Brentford officials the legalities of him still being their contracted and registered player and playing part time for the another club.
After lengthy discussions a deal was struck deal that allowed Terry to play but only because Blyth were a part time club.

IMG_6737He made his debut in the friendly against Berwick Rangers on Friday 5th August and scored his first goal 4 days later in the 5-2 home friendly win over Wallsend Town.
The first competitive goal as a Spartan came on Tuesday 13th September when Blyth beat Shildon 4-1 at home in the league.
Four days later he scored a second half goal in the 3-0 win at Shildon in the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round, little did he know then what a further six goals in the competition would do.

Former club Brentford had been monitoring his form and it wasn’t long before they made an attempt to bring him back. Prior to Blyth’s FA Cup 2nd Round tie with Chesterfield he had gone to watch his former Bees teammates play at Darlington and was spotted in the stand by club officials who informed their Chairman. Bees official approached him but he wasn’t interested:
“There is now way I shall turn my back on Blyth with the FA Cup tie coming up”.

Johnson 3-2By the time Blyth played Stoke City away in a delayed FA Cup 4th round tie he had scored another 10 goals.
Of all the teams and grounds to cemented his cult hero status, his performance at Stoke City’s Victoria Ground was somewhat cathartic given his last visit in December 68 with Newcastle.
All his experience was clear to see in the final seconds of a tie, latching onto a loose ball he unerringly fired home a sensational winner.
The dramatic goal in the epic 3-2 win saw Blyth become the first Non league club to reach the 5th Round for 29 years.
Terry revealed that while the Stoke players may not have underestimated Blyth their attempted gamesmanship towards them only inspired the Spartans. His exchange with footballing legend Howard Kendall after they had taken a 2-1 lead was a prime example:
“Howard Kendall came up to me and said, never mind son, you’ve done really well to get this far!
He was so bloody condescending. You should have seen his face when we got the equaliser, and when I belted in the winner I gave him the two fingers, the look on his face”.

Being part time it was straight back to work the next morning, with the team not not gettingScreenshot 2021-02-19 at 07.30.45 home until 2.30am in morning he was up at 7.30am to drive to his work.
It wasn’t until after putting in a day at work the players were able to celebrate their achievements at the Croft Park social club where a party was thrown.
IMG_6791Having taken a job as a storeman at  the Jackel factory in Blyth the press wanted a photo of the hero at his place of work.
The players lapped up all the attention of this once in a lifetime opportunity, Terry was even invited on the BBC’s Football Focus show to talk about the cup run and his heroics at Stoke.
That win had also brought the players an unlikely reward. Terry’s goals as a professional had won him awards but had never furniture! 
Local bedroom furniture company Alpha gifted all the Blyth players £1,000 each worth of furniture their efforts at Stoke.

While Terry was scoring at Stoke a result elsewhere denied him and Blyth their dream cup tie. Prior to kick off the clubs knew the next round opponents were either Newcastle United or Wrexham away, the Welsh side hammered United 4-1.
Terry knew the home ground of the inform Welsh side, he had scored on the Racecourse Ground on 17th February 73 in Southend’s 2-3 league defeat.

5 years on he repeated the feat scoring one of Blyth Spartans most iconic goals ever.Screen Shot 2021-02-16 at 15.40.51Only 12 minutes into the 5th Round tie on Saturday 18th February he famously fired Blyth into a lead that put them within seconds of the FA Cup Quarter Finals.
What happened in the final few seconds of the game has be debated countless times since with the tie controversially going to a replay.

With St James’ Park being due to stage the replay, Terry was faced with a return for the first times since his release seven years earlier. Still bitter at not being given the chance he felt he had earned, despite being a Newcastle fan he hadn’t been to the ground since:
“I’ve never been back, not even to watch a game I just wanted to stay away.”

78 playersOn Saturday 21st February 78, Terry finally made a return to St James’. Blyth manager Brian Slane contacted United officials to ask if his players could visit the St James’ before the game to get a feel for the ground. United’s hieracy went one better and invited the Blyth players & officials to be guests of honour at the home game with Ipswich on Saturday 21st February.

IMG_6900Having featured on the cover of Brentford’s programme for the 76/77 season, once again he was graced a match day programme. Replay prog
The iconic ‘official souvenir programme’ for the St James’ ParkScreenshot 2021-03-12 at 07.35.28 replay featured only three of the Spartans heroes; Terry, Dave Clarke & Ron Guthrie.
Fittingly, having started their careers together at Newcastle United as young pro’s they were chosen to feature on the cover of the famous programme for big game.

SJP CrowdOn the night of the legendary replay, Terry was the darling of the packed St James’ Park crowd that he had once worked so hard to play in front of.
42,157 saw another incident packed game, the epic cup run sadly come to an end but it was some what fitting that Terry scored the last goal of the run with it coming at St James’ Park.
Terry was in a rich vain of form, that replay at SJP was the sixth consecutive game he had scored in, the 8 goals in 6 games which was his best return since joining the club.

Picture 3After a decade of trying to make a name for himself in the professional game with only moderate success in the lower reaches of the Football League, after only 28 games as a part time player he had achieved national fame.
League teams were queuing up to speak to the Blyth players.
Both his former clubs made approaches but he was enjoying his football and was more than happy at Blyth.

It had brought him a hero worship status that he was enjoying:
“I have to say I love being recognised and stopped in the street by kids, mums and dads, grandmas and grandads. I enjoyed having my picture in the papers and seeing myself score goals on television.
Do I miss the league? Sometimes I wish I was still playing in it, I know I can hold my own.
But if I has stayed at Brentford would have missed all this magic.”

He won his first silverware as a Spartans and it came back at St James’ Park of all places.
On Tuesday 2nd May 78 he scored again on St James’ Park as Blyth beat North Shields 2-1 in the Northumberland Senior Cup Final.
His second half winner sealed his first medal for Blyth and within a week he had another, on Tuesday 9th May he added a Northern League Cup winners medal as the Spartans hammered Willington 5-1.
In between the two finals he hit his first hat trick for the club as they hammered League Champions Spennymoor 6-1 in the final league game of the season.

Saturday 13th May Blyth headed to Wrexham again for the 1st Leg of the Debenhams Cup Final.
Terry made it 3 goals in 3 appearances at The Racecourse Ground when he fired Blyth ahead in the 5th minute. Unfortunately by the time Dave Varty sealed the 2-1 win in the 72nd minute Terry had been subbed due to a hamstring injury.
He recovered in time to play in the 2nd leg five days later but again had to be subbed in the 70th minute of the 1-1 draw after the injury flared up again.
The draw sealed the 3-2 aggregate win and his 3rd winners medals in 13 days to round off a superb debut season with the club.

Screenshot 2021-02-26 at 07.12.30He started the new 78/79 season in great style, Saturday 19th August he hit a hat trick in the open day 5-1 home win over Horden CW. His next goals also came in a 5-1 win, bagging a brace in the home win over Willington on Tuesday 29th August.
The FA Cup came around once again in November 78, Blyth were drawn away to 4th Division York City in the 1st Round. He scored from the penalty spot to earn a 1-1 draw at Bootham Crescent but then suffered a broke toe which forced him out of the replay three days later.

Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 09.59.34By the time he returned to action on the 22nd January his strike partner Alan Shoulder had sealed a dream move to Newcastle United and manager Brian Slane had retired.
The promotion of Jackie Marks from coach/assistant to team manager kept the continuity and Terry thrived under the man who had brought him to the club. Playing alongside new signing the Les Mutrie he scored six goals as they finished the season with a 15 game unbeaten run that saw another medal added to his growing collection when they retained the League Cup.

Screenshot 2021-02-27 at 20.30.00The 79/80 campaign was the start of the worst run of injuries he’d ever had in the game.
A bizarre incident in the final seconds of a pre season friendly against a works football team led to him suffering a career threatening eye injury.
In the win against York British Rail at Croft Park on Saturday 4th August, his shot rebound off their keeper and hit him in the face damaging his right eye, he was rushed to hospital in Newcastle.
After his release and return home he revealed to the Evening Chronicle that his career was on the line:
“I have seen a special, who has warned me that if I play football in the next three or four weeks  – and assuming I took a knot on the head – I could go blind. I’m told the right retina has gone thin.
It’s now just a question of waiting to see what happens. I’ve got to wait for a month to see how things go – and even then I’m not certain if I’ll play again”.

He didn’t get the all clear until mid October and made his return as sub in the last 20 minutes of a 3-0 League Cup win over Penrith on Tuesday 23rd October. Four days later he returned the to the starting XI for the 1-1 draw with Billingham.
Only week later the injury curse struck again when he broke his leg in a 2-2 home draw with Marine in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round on Saturday 3rd November.

Screenshot 2021-02-27 at 20.32.08After 12 months of injury misery in January 1980 he decided it was time to quit the game, sadly the competition that had made him famous had ended his career.
Despite recovering for the broken leg, now aged 30 he felt the timing of his decision was right:
“It was a very difficult decision to make, but it is the right one. I’m mending well now but i think it is about time I concentrated my energies on the firm I work for”.

Now the stores manager at Jackel International he acknowledged their part in his success:
“If it wasn’t for their understanding I wouldn’t have been able to do as much for Blyth Spartans. I’ve enjoyed myself and if you asked me for the most memorable goal I scored, then I’ve got to pick the one that won us the 4th Round cup tie at Stoke”.

While working hard on his recovery he kept in touch with manager and friend Jackie Marks, and attended training session to get his fitness back.Screenshot 2021-02-27 at 20.35.21
In March 1980 Blyth had fought their way to the Quarter Finals of the FA Trophy but had a growing injury list.
With a home replay against Northern Premier League side Mossley two days away Jackie Marks didn’t want to risk further injuries for the Saturday league game against Durham City.
With the club still having Terry contracted until the end of the 80/81 season the SOS call was made.
Along with fellow striker Paul Ross, who had damaged his knee liagments only a fortnight after Terry had, they were asked if they were up to playing a game.

It proved a shrewd move by Marks, playing in a midfield birth he’d not played since his Brentford days Terry bagged two goals in the 4-0 win. Speaking about is first goals for the Spartans since May 79:
“I had a great time, I decided to go out and enjoy myself and i did just that – with two goals into the bargain”.

Screenshot 2021-02-27 at 20.27.10Ahead of the FA Trophy Quarter Final replay, The Journal’s reporter Bill Bradshaw quizzed Terry on his future plans:
“Initially, I was just doing them a favour and I had certainly decided to not play again any more and concentrate on my job. But that’s easier said than done. Football isn’t something I can turn my back on. I’ve kept fit training with the Blyth lads and playing five-a-side matches. Football’s been a big part of my life and when Blyth had injury problems I was delight to turn out for them”.

Terry kept his midfield place for the replay but Mossley proved too good on the night and Blyth’s Wembley dream ended for another season.
He went on to win his first league winners medal that season as Jackie Marks side stormed to the clubs first Northern League title since 1976, ending the three year reign of rivals Spennymoor.

Now established in a midfield role the new 80/81 season started disappointingly. Not only did Blyth surprisingly lose the opening game 0-2 at home to Consett, Terry picked up an achilles tendon injury that kept him out for a month.
IMG_6850He returned to action on 17th September as Blyth were in the middle of a 17 game unbeaten run and is first goal of the season came in the 1-1 draw at home to Crook Town on 23rd September.
By the time the club entered the FA Cup on 1st November with a 7-0 hammering of Horden, Terry had been appointed team captain. A 2-1 1st Round win over Burton Albion saw Blyth draw Hull City away in the 2nd Round. Three epic cup ties that ended with a narrow defeat in a 2nd replay played at Elland Road.
That night saw another of Terry’s teammates make the step up to league football when Les Mutrie signed for Hull straight after the game.

The end of 80/81 season brought him a trophy double as they retained the Northern League title and he also made another another appearance at St James’ Park.IMG_6849
The Senior Cup Final with Blue Star ended 1-1 and had to go to a replay at Whitley Bay, Terry opening the scoring in a 3-1 win that sealed the double.
However that isn’t the end of the drama, hours after the win the man who had brought Terry to Blyth Jackie Marks, stepped down as manager.

Experienced Northern League manager and former Blyth player Bob Elwell was appointed for what was a stop start season for Terry.
He scored in the first game of the season but after being a fixture in the managers new side he suffered another achilles injury in 3-2 home win over Ferryhill on 15th September that would keep him out for 8 weeks.
He returned in time to get a couple of games in before Blyth hosted Walsall in the FA Cup 1st Round, two games later he was sent off in a 2-2 draw at South Bank that brought him a 28 day suspension!

IMG_6792 2In the summer of 1981 he was made redundant from his job at Jackel International.
Shrewdly he made a career change that capitalised on his fame opening a Fruit & Veg shop in Blyth!
It was a huge success and he even took up a stall on the thriving Blyth market on a Saturday morning.

By the March he was on longer an automatic choice, it appeared that Terry didn’t feature in the managers plans and he wasn’t happy:
The manager has the right to hear what I have to say before anyone else, but it is true that I want to talk to him”.

Despite clearing the air he was used more often as a substitute as Bob Elwells’ won the treble, they clocked up an 11 game unbeaten run to retain the title. Terry did start in the last two games of the season which were both to be cup finals.
On 5th May he collected another League Cup winners medal as Blyth beat South Bank on penalties and then played at St James’ Park yet again as a Paul Walker 89th minute goal sealed another Senior Cup win and the third trophy on 12 days.

Terry scored in a 5-0 pre season friendly win over Seaham Red Star on Tuesday 10th August 1982 but that proved to be his last game as he was released by Bob Elwell days later.
Screenshot 2021-02-27 at 19.08.32Terry spoke of his sadness:
“I suppose, in a way I was expecting it.
But I’m shattered, nevertheless. 

I’m a Blyth lad now and have always felt very close to the club, but the manager doesn’t want me and I have to accept the situation”.

Bob Elwell explained his decision was playing budget related:
“I cannot afford to have a contracted player who is not in the team on a regular basis”.

Terry wasn’t short of offers with no fewer than six clubs interested and even a management career was on offer. Consett manager Gary Moore, had been Jackie Marks assistant at Blyth and knew Terry well and what he could offer. He wanted him to use his experience and become as his assistant manager for 1982/83 season.8F85D3A9-9920-49ED-8C20-4051F0A8962A

While Bedlington Terriers and Seaham Red Star made their interest public he wasn’t giving anything away:
“It would not be right to say who who they are at this stage. I’m still building my fruit and veg business in Blyth and I’m going to leave any decision about my future for a couple of weeks at least.
I do want to play again, though I only wish it had been with Blyth”.

After taking his time to decide on what would be best for him and his successful Fruit & Veg business, it was Bedlington Terriers boss Bill Ward pulled off a coup landing Terry for their first season in the new Northern League Second Division. However, come the New Year he was back at Croft Park.

Bob Elwell lost his job in November 82 following an FA Cup defeat at Alliance side Northwich Victoria that the Blyth board deemed unacceptable. His replacement was former the Scottish International Everton & Newcastle winger John Connolly.
The new Player Manager was an instant hit with the fans with his attacking free flowing football and in January 83 he endear himself to the Croft Park faithful even further bringing Terry back home.

IMG_6299IMG_6852He played a vital role as Blyth reached the 4th Round of the FA Trophy and stormed to yet another League title winning all but one of their last nine games. The game that clinched the title on Saturday 30th April proved to be Terry’s swan song to the Northern League.
Blyth went to Tow Law knowing they had to win to ensure the title. Making his second start since returning Terry scored four as Blyth hammered Tow Law 9-1!

His last game for Blyth came on Thursday 19th May 1983 when they lost a Senior Cup Final Replay to Blue Star, he called it a day on his football career at the end of that season.
He scored 73 goals in 164 appearances for Blyth and it the club’s 21st all time highest goalscorer.

Terry’s 6 years in Non League football was a huge success, more so than all his years as a professional.
It brought him national fame and made him a North East football legend.
TJ 77:78Every one of those 77/78 players are legends for what they achieved, they will never be forgotten even now their names are still revered in Non League football.

For his part Terry Johnson became the ultimate Green and White Cult Hero, a truly legendary Spartan.


Credits, Acknowledgements & Thank you’s:

The late Ken Sproat’s superb book ‘The History of Blyth Spartans’ was as ever an important source of information.

Yet again Kevin Tilmouth provided images from his superb collection Blyth Spartans memorabilia.

Phil Castiaux for the image from the Tow Law hammering.

Two Newcastle United fans provided vital info and an image and I must thank them for all their help with this article  –
Alan Golightly  – @old_toon
Once again Alan has been a great help with his knowledge of all things Newcastle United.

David Pallister – @DavidPallister
Another very knowledgeable Toon fan who was a great help

The following excellent websites provided important info and images:

Southend United Ex Players Association provided great images and info on Terry’s time at the club – @SUEPAssoc

The British Newspaper Library was a vital source of info and images.

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Players from the past – Peter Mackin 1908 to 1910 & 1911/12.

Players from the Past profiles and tells the stories of former Spartans from the clubs birth right up to WWII.

Third in the series is…

Peter Mackin 1908 to 1910 & 1911/12

IMG_5517The Spartans had already been playing for seven seasons before Peter joined, there had been standout players in those early years such as the likes of Billy Gallagher, Billy Spence and the Thompson brothers; Andrew & Nixon.
However Peter was the first Spartan to earn hero status within the town.
Living and working alongside the fans he became their hero. Walking the short distance to and from the shipyard everyday with them they would then flock in their thousands to the towns football ground to watch him play.

Peter was born in Gateshead in 1878 to Michael & Mary Anne.
His Irish father was born in Armagh in 1848 but left his homeland due to the 1845-1849 ‘Potato Famine’ and moved to the North East. Peter’s mother Marry Anne Leadbitter was from Easington Lane, Durham.

The family moved to Wallsend in 1881 when his father took up work at Palmer’s Shipbuilding & Iron Company.
In 1891 his father convinced the shipyard to take on 13 year old Peter as an apprentice.

They then moved back across the Tyne in 1899, living in Hebburn with both Peter and his father working in the towns Hawthorn Leslie shipyard.
Aged 21, Peter signed for Northern Alliance side Hebburn Argyle.
The form of the stocky bustling forward soon attracted attention, in December 1899 Sunderland manager Alex Mathie offered Arygle £75 for Peter which they accepted.
His deal with Sunderland was £10 up front, £3 per week and £1 bonus for each win and 3 shillings for each drawn game he played in.
He spent two seasons at Sunderland on their first team list of players but was a regular for their “A” team.
He was a key part of the successful “A” team that retained both the Durham Senior Cup and the Tyneside Alliance and finished runners up in the Northern Alliance in 1901/02.
Having not managed to make a first team appearance he left Sunderland at the end of 1902/03.

He signed for Northern Alliance side Wallsend Park Villa and started work again in the Palmers shipyard as a general labourer.
He was the extra quality Villa needed having finished runners up in the previous campaign, Peter’s goals helped them seal their first and only Northern Alliance title in 1903/04. He was top scorer in both his seasons at Villa as they scored 124 goals in 56 league games.

In May 1905 Lincoln City’s Scottish manager David Calderhead looked further north for new players, Peter was one of several northern based players he brought in.
He made an instant impact scoring on his debut in the 1905/06 season opening day 3-1 win over Burslem Port Vale.IMG_5523
He then struggled but found form at the turn of the year, scoring a brace as City thrashed Burnley 5-0, scoring another two again a fortnight later as Burton United we beaten 5-1.
His knack for grabbing goals in big wins continued with a hat trick as Bradford City were beaten 5-0 at home.
In City’s penultimate home game of the season he scored both in a 2-3 defeat by Manchester United as they finished in 13th place. He scored 16 times in 33 appearances.

Injury restricted him to just five goals from 21 appearances the following season including two against Clapham Orient in March 1907 in a 3-0 win.
They were his final goals for the club as they finished second from bottom.
Peter left the Imps in May 1907 returning to his native North-East rejoining Wallsend Park Villa for the 07/08 Northern Alliance season.
Upon his return to the North East, Peter meet his wife Anne Doyle and they were married later that year.

Blyth first encountered him on Saturday 1st February 1908 in the 2-2 home draw.
He scored both their goals that afternoon however it was his goals in the next meeting that caused the most damage to Blyth’s season.
Spartans had gone into the final game of their inaugural Northern Alliance season with an expectation of finishing runners up.
However that game was away at Wallsend Park Villa, there had been ill feeling between the clubs ever since Blyth gained election to the league the previous summer.

  • Villa had strongly objected to Blyth’s election, they were especially unhappy about the way club secretary Jonathon Ridley had allegedly ‘gone about persuading’ the league and it’s clubs that they should expand to a more competitive 16 team set up.
    They raised the matter with the FA who upheld the complaint and the Spartans were effectively without a league.
    Jonathan Ridley held meetings with league officials to find a resolution. Villa promptly withdrew their complaint, which Scotswood briefly then took up. They quickly realised the allegations were ‘founded on misconception’ and dropped their objections allowing Blyth to take up their rightful place in the Northern Alliance.
    Subsequently Wallsend Park Villa tended noticed to leave the league at the end of the season and join the North Eastern League.

Having started the final game in second place Blyth’s hopes were dashed as Villa’s star player who scored four in a damaging 2-6 hammering. Blyth ended up finishing a disappointing 5th.
A week after the final game the club made their move for Peter, he had finished the season as Villa’s top scorer with 26 goals.
Officials knew his experience was what was needed to take the club further and instantly installed him as team captain.
Crowds were had risen to around 3,000 for each home game and they wanted success. Officials were determined to establish themselves as the top team in the league and were known for paying the best wages in the league. They were determined to banish the failings of the clubs predecessors, Blyth FC who had played in the league before folding in April 1899.

Anne and Peter moved into a house in Maddison Street and he started work for the Blyth Shipbuilding and Dock Company. Despite working long and exhausting hours he always made time for his family as well as his football.
They had the first of their five children, Michael and Peter, not long after moving to Blyth.


Captain Peter (centre of front row) before the 3-1 win at Bedlington United on 9th January 1909.

His first goal for the club came on 26th September in the 1-1 away draw at Mickley, however it was the next game that had the local paper singing his praises.
On Saturday 17th October a staggering 6,000 shoe horned into the Thoronton Cottage ground for the local derby with Bedlington United.
Such was the interest in the game it attracted a ground record crowd and had to kick off earlier than advertised due to the sheer numbers.
Blyth hammered United 7-0, Peter caught the eye of the towns paper receiving all the plaudits despite Dan Heenan scoring a hat trick:
“a real dandy player, sending the crowd into hilarious amusement by tricking one player after another by his play”.

He scored 26 that season as Blyth stormed to their first ever Northern Alliance title.
Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 15.19.11His role in helping the club to the title had earned him hero status with the supporters but on Wednesday 28th April 1909 he took his fame to a new level, virtually singled handily sealing a trophy double.
Having scored in the 1-1 draw with North Eastern League North Shields Athletic in the Tynemouth Infirmary Cup Final, Blyth got to host the replay.
It would turn out to be the last game at the club’s Thoroton Cottage ground before they moved to Croft Park.
Against the higher league opposition Spartans had taken the lead against the run of play and were hanging on to a precarious 1-0 lead.
Peter then stole the show scoring a hat trick as Blyth stormed to an impressive 4-0 win in front of a 4,000 crowd, it was a great send off for the popular ground.
At the final whistle spectators triumphantly carried Peter shoulder high from the pitch despite the torrential rain. Thousands followed the team back to the club’s new headquarters above the Joiners Arms and patiently waited until the trophy was displayed at an open window above the pub.

063 - Spartans v Newcastle Reserves - the opening match at Croft Park on 1st September 1909. Lord Ridley is about to punt the ball

Peter stands arms folded as Lord Ridley is about to run passed him to kick off the game at Croft Park.

On Wednesday 1st September 1909 Croft Park was officially opened as Spartans hosted Newcastle United Reserves, Peter scored the first goal on the new ground from open play as the Reserves ran out 2-4 winners.
Saturday 11th September Peter scored the club’s first ever FA Cup goal in the 1-1 home draw with
Washington United.

On New Years Day 1910 Blyth beat Anfield Plain 2-0 in a game where the Blyth keeper never touched the ball once, the football Spartans were producing was
“never so brilliant” as the Blyth News stated.
Two days later Peter scored in a 2-0 win over Jarrow Caledonians, he was described as an inspirational, forceful leader – a “generalissimo”.
He made up for an almost complete lack of pace with the ability to bewilder opponents with incredible dribbling skills and ferocious finishing power.
IMG_5515Crowds at Croft Park were averaging 4,000 per game. The free scoring Peter, Billy Spence, Clem Stephenson and long serving Nicky Thompson were the main attraction.
Such was their popularity with the townsfolk they even had a Blyth Music Hall song written in their honour.

With three hat tricks already to his name, on 19th February 1910 he became the first Spartan to score a hat trick of penalties in one game.
Peter scored a double hat trick that day as Blyth hammered Kingston Villa 9-0 at Croft Park.  The always descriptive reporter for the Blyth News stated Peter was:
the cynosure of all eyes’
(cynosure – a person or thing that is the centre of attention or admiration).

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-07-30-54For his achievement the club awarded him with a set of presentation carving knives from a renowned ironmongers in Bridge Street, Blyth; Dalston Brothers.
Two more medals were added to his club collection as a cup double was won in April.
On Wednesday 20th they beat South Shields Adelaide 2-1 to retain the Tynemouth Infirmary Cup and nine days later won the Aged Miners Homes Cup Final.
Having only won three of the last seven league games the clubs ambitious administrators deemed the 7th place finish an unacceptable return from a campaign they started as champions.
The 4-0 Aged Miners Homes Cup win over Choppington St. Pauls at Croft Park proved not only to be Peter’s last game but that of several other established Spartans.
While Peter didn’t manage to score in the Final leaving with 49 club goals to his name, long serving Nicky Thompson recorded his 114th goal on his final appearance before going to New Hartley Rovers.

Peter went to play for local rivals Bedlington United in the 1910/11 season and despite a 9th place league finish he picked up yet another winners medal.
Having captained Blyth to back to back Tynemouth Infirmary Cup wins, in March 1911 he made it three in a row when Bedlington beat Stobswood 4-2 at Croft Park to claim the trophy for the first time. In honour of his achievement captain Frank Wilson stepped aside to let Peter be presented with the trophy after the final whistle.

Still hugely popular in his home town, in April 1911 Blyth officials commissioned a portrait of Peter and presented it to him at the end of the season as a mark of their respect for his achievements.
Having decided to go with younger players Blyth’s fortunes only improved by one league place, ending 1910/11 in 6th. There was a change within the club when secretary Jonathan Ridley so long the driving force behind the team, stepped down and was replaced by John Edward Spence.
Spence brought back players he personally knew and in May 1911 much to the supporters joy Peter returned to Croft Park, aged 33 he was now playing a deeper midfield role.

He add two more goals to bring up 51 in total for the club. He scored in the 2-0 away win at Choppington 2-0  on Saturday 30th December and then two days later in the 2-0 home win over Mickley on New Years Day.
There was no improvement in the final league placing finishing 7th, one place lower than the previous season. There was another trophy win as Peter made it four cup winners medals with the club.
IMG_5524On Saturday 27th April 1912 they beat Benwell Adelaide 2-1 at home in the Aged Miners Homes Cup Final in his last ever game for the club.

His footballing talents were still in demand, he joined Ashington for the 1912/13 season helping then secure a second consecutive runners up finish in the Northern Alliance.
In 1913/14 he played for Willington Athletic and then briefly for Newburn before the world changed in 1914.

Peter was 36 when war broke out in July 1914 and like many of his shipyard workmates  he enlisted joining 20th Battalion (1st Tyneside Scottish) of the Northumberland Fusiliers.
While his battalion were training in Amble he still managed to play some football.
Just before being sent to the Western Front he faced some of the Newcastle United players once again, when local club footballers staged in a game against members of the United squad who had also been called into service.

Sent to Northern France, Private 20/1049 was wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916.
screen-shot-2016-12-15-at-07-00-49Sadly Peter’s brother younger Thomas, who was in the 3rd Tyneside Irish 26th Battalion,  lost his life on that fateful day on the Somme.
After recovering from his injuries Peter was transferred to the 1st (Tyneside Irish) 24th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers.

Sadly on Easter Monday 9th April 1917, aged 38, he was killed at Vimy Ridge in the Battle of Arras.
On 18th May 1917 the Morpeth Herald reported:
“Official news had been reached at Blyth that Peter Mackin of Tyneside Irish has been killed in action. Private Mackin was for several years the doyen of local football followers. He leaves a widow and family of young children”.

His death stunned a town already too used with losing its sons in the war.
A fund was created to support the families, it raised over £2,000 for service charities
(a huge amount at that time, £140,000 in today’s money).
In early September the Blyth News announced that a benefit match was the be held for his widow, Anne and their 5 children, the youngest Frank, being born 4 months after Peter’s death.
On Saturday 22nd September the wife of County Councillor A.A. Askwith was given the honour of kicking off the benefit game between Blyth Munitionettes and the Ladies of the Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Company (Wallsend Slipway Girls).
It was the first game played by the hugely successful and popular Blyth Munitionettes.

Peter was one of seven Spartans who lost their lives in the Great War;
Jack Nichol was killed on the 10th August, 1915.
Patrick McLaughlin was killed on 27th March 1916.
George Robertson was killed in July 1915.
Richard McFadden was killed on 22nd October 1916.
Dan Dunglinson was killed on the 1st July 1916.
Jack Robson was killed in action in July 1917.
Lest we forget.

IMG_5456Roclincourt Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France is the Commonwealth War Grave of Private P. Mackin.

Screen Shot 2020-08-07 at 15.53.19There is also a family headstone in Cowpen Cemetery, Blyth which reads:
In loving memory of a beloved mother Annie Mackin died 7th April 1933 aged 52 years dear wife of Peter Mackin Pvte. 20/1049, 24th (Tyneside Irish) Bn. Northumberland Fusiliers killed at Battle of Arras 9th April 1937 aged 38 years and interred at Roclincourt, France.


He is he remembered on the towns cenotaph in Ridley Park:
1914-1918 In Remembrance of the men of Blyth who endured great hardships achieved glorious deeds, and died for freedom and country in the Great War’.

  • He is also remembered on a memorial in what was their local church, Our Lady and St Wilfired’s Roman Catholic Church in Waterloo Street, Blyth.
    However, he is listed as ‘Peter Macklin’, of the thirty one congregation members who lost their lives in the Great War eleven on the memorial are known to have different variations of their actual birth names.
    Differing spelling of surnames wasn’t uncommon in the early 1900’s in fact Lincoln City FC historians have Peter recorded as Peter Machin!.


When the centenary of Croft Park was commemorated in 2009 the club restaged the Newcastle United Reserves friendly. The current Lord Ridley also kicked off the game which Blyth again lost 2-4.

In honour of what his father achieved for the club a century earlier guest of honour that night was Peter’s youngest son, Frank.
A week shy of his 92nd birthday he travelled up from his Bolton home especially for the occasion.
He had kept the family connection to the club going throughout his life, still attended matches Blyth played in the North West. Frank’s daughter lived and worked in Cramlington for over 30 years and his son in law and grandson still attend games at Croft Park to this day.

What Peter Mackin achieved for the club and the town has and will never be forgotten.
He is a true Blyth Spartans legend, one of the pivotal people in the club’s history.


Credits, Acknowledgements & Thank you’s:

The late Ken Sproat’s superb book ‘The History of Blyth Spartans’ was as ever an important source of information.

The following excellent websites provided important info and images:

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Players from the past – Frank King 1933.

Players from the Past profiles and tells the stories of former Spartans from the clubs birth right up to WWII.

Second in the series is…

Frank King 1933

IMG_5391Francis Oliver King was born on 13th April 1917 in Radcliffe, Northumberland.

The eldest of three brothers, George & Ray, his father was a miner at Radcliffe colliery.
Aged only nine they were evicted from their colliery house after his father was suspected of instigating a miners strike.
His parents then briefly attempted to run a chip shop but had to give up the business when ten year old Frank accidentally burnt down the house!
They moved to Amble when his father secured a new job as a check weigh man at Hauxley Colliery.

Frank started playing football aged 14 for Radcliffe. He was given his first team debut in 1931 when Radcliffe drew local rivals Hauxley in a North Northumberland Cup tie.
Despite losing 0-1 Frank was the star player for Radcliffe, undeterred at being younger than his opponents the red haired keeper soon gained a reputation of having no fear.

IMG_5624It was Blyth’s first official manager, Ernie Hoffman, that brought 16 year old Frank to Croft Park. Signing him from Amble with the intention of playing him in the Reserves to develop.
However the FA Cup changed all that.

The Spartans had drawn 1-1 away at Wardley Welfare in a 3rd Qualifying Round tie on Saturday 28th October, four days later the replay at Croft Park ended 2-2 after extra time.
Blyth then played Darlington Reserves away on Saturday 4th November in a North Eastern League game.
Albert Dunmore scored the goal in a great 1-0 win but Blyth suffered a blow when regular keeper Jim Barron picked up an injury.

The injury ruled him out of the FA Cup 2nd Replay two days later, Ernie Hoffman had every confidence in his “strongly built” stand in keeper.
On Monday 6th November Blyth finally overcame Wardley Welfare 1-0 thanks to another Dumore winner to set up a 4th Qual. tie with local NEL rivals North Shields.
However was it Frank’s ‘miraculous’ performance that took all the plaudits, the Blyth News dubbed him the “brilliant boy keeper”.

He kept his place for the North Shields tie at Croft Park and produced another superb display as the tie ended 0-0.
The 1-1 league draw away at Sunderland Reserves on Saturday 18th November saw him concede his first goal in three appearances, however word about the “brilliant boy keeper’ had got out.
On Monday 20th November Frank played in the FA Cup 4th Qual. Replay, a game that changed his life.
Blyth lost 1-3 but once again Frank was the star man despite the the scoreline, the display of the 16 year old impressed the watching scouts.
Straight after the game at Appleby Park, First Division Everton made their move and approached the club about signing Frank.

IMG_5623On Wednesday 22nd November Frank officially signed for the Toffees.
Due to his age he was classed as an ‘amateur signing’ and a nominal fee of £200 was agreed between the clubs.
He spent a year in the youth and reserves teams before featuring in the clubs annual Intra-Squad Blues v Whites pre season friendlies.
On 13th August 1934 he played for the ‘Whites’ in the 4-4 draw where he came up against club legend Dixie Dean. Five days later his Whites team won the return 7-4.

Remarkably he was handed his first team debut on his 17th birthday!
He debuted in the 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough at Goodison, going on to make four more appearances that season keeping three clean sheets in those five games.


Frank with fellow new signing, future Everton legend & England manager Joe Mercer.

From 1933/34 season onwards he was
established as the stand in for regular keeper
Ted Sagar.
On 4th January 1936, aged only 19 he was
thrown into the white hot atmosphere of a Merseyside derby.
With Sagar injured Frank stepped in and produced a man of the match performance in front of 52,282 in a 0-0 draw.
An avid Sunderland supporter it had been Frank’s dream to one day play for the Black Cats. On 6th February 1937 he finally got to play against the team he supported. He kept a clean sheet as a Dixie Dean brace helped to the Toffees to an easy 3-0 victory.

Frank only managed to play 13 times keeping an impressive 8 clean sheets. He couldn’t oust regular keeper Ted Sagar who would go on to make 500 appearances.
Frank felt he needed to be playing regularly he meet with the management to express his concerns and as a result on 8th May 1937 he was allowed to join Derby County for £200.
IMG_5316It was seen as a shrewd signing by the Rams.
But with three other keepers already on their books his task of getting regular games was no easier.
He featured in the final three games of 1937/38 season, the last first team league game he played for the Rams happened to be back at Goodison Park on 7th May 1938 in a 1-1 draw.
A bad injury picked up in a Reserve team game against Stoke City in January 1939 led to him having to retire aged only 22.

Unable to play professionally anymore Frank embarked on a career in the police force, he did however manage to return to playing three years later.
When war broke out in September 1939 as a serving police officer he was excluded from the war effort and made a return to football. He signed for Southport as a ‘guest player’ and played in the Wartime League.
Screenshot 2020-08-01 at 12.21.59Between 1941/42 and 43/44 Frank made 23 appearances while still serving as a policeman. Having been out the game for over two years, his return wasn’t as successful.
His debut on 13th December 1941 didn’t quiet go to plan as Southport lost 1-6 away at Bury.
He failed to kept a clean sheet and conceded 62 goals in those 23 appearances, playing 13 times in Wartime League and 10 times in the Football League War Cup.
His last ever appearance at Goodison Park as a player wasn’t quite as he would have wanted, Southport lost 2-10 on 22nd February 1943 in a Football League War Cup Qualifying tie.

Frank’s final game as a player came on 18th September 1943 in Southport’s 4-4 home draw with Rochdale. However that wasn’t his last involvement in the game.
While still a serving policeman he took a course in physiotherapy and upon qualifying he quit the force and took up the roll of physio at Leicester City.

Screenshot 2020-07-18 at 11.22.55In 1958 he accepted on offer to move to Luton Town to be their trainer. He was part of their infamous ‘selection team’ when the club reached Wembley for the first time in 1959.

In October 58 Dally Duncan left Kenilworth Road to join Blackburn after ten years in charge. Town’s board formed a ‘selection team’ to run footballing side of the club.
Three directors, trainer Frank along with help from long serving captain Syd Owen choose the team, it worked as The Hatters reached their first major Final.
112685583They used the same 11 players in the nine games to reach Wembley.
The 78th FA Cup Final was a case of what could have been for the Hatters.
The directors  within the selection team over ruled Frank & Owen and bizarrely decided to change a winning team. They left out top goalscorer Gordon Tuner and winger Jim Adam. The Hatters found themselves 0-2 down after 14 minutes, in the second half even when Forest went to down to 10 men through injury they couldn’t capitalise. They did pull a goal back but Forest held on to lift the cup.
That Final was as good as it got for the Hatters and the following season they were relegated from the First Division and by the start of 64/65 were playing in the fourth tier.

By then Frank had taken up a position as a physio for the FA and served them for several years in various posts before retiring and living out his days in Bedforshire.

Sadly the ‘brilliant boy keeper’ passed away in 2003 aged 86.

  • His two younger brothers also went on to having extensive professional careers.
    George was a forward he scored 59 goals in 164 league games in a seven-year career playing for Newcastle, Hull City Port Vale, Barrow, Bradford City & Gillingham.
    George passed away in 2009 aged 86.Ray was also a keeper and like his brother George became his career at Newcastle before joining Leyton Orient and then Ashington. However it was at Port Vale he made his name making 252 appearances in eight years with them and earning a call up for the England B team. He would go on to play and manage Boston United then manage Poole Town & Sittingbourne.
    Ray passed away in 2014 aged 89.
  • Credits, Acknowledgements & Thank you’s:

The late Ken Sproat‘s superb book ‘The History of Blyth Spartans’ was as ever an important source of information.

The following excellent websites provided important info and images:

– Southport FC’s superb online archive of their history provided great info on Frank’s wartime football.

– Provided great info on the 1959 FA Cup Final.

The following pages provided info on Frank’s playing career –

– Provided a great old image of Frank in his Luton days.

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Players from the past – Edward Ward 1914 > 1920.

  • This new series will feature profiles and stories of former Blyth Spartans players that many may not have heard of and that time has forgotten.

    Former Spartans from the clubs birth right up to WWII.
    First in the series is…

Edward Ward 1914 > 1920

6C96927D-6706-4D32-B168-32CE9658E4ED 2Edward was born on 14th June 1895 in Whitehaven Cumberland to parents John and Catherine.
Ted was the youngest of five sons, his father was a coal miner and the family moved to Cowpen in Blyth when he took up work at Cowpen Colliery.
All five sons worked at the colliery including Ted aged only 15.

That was when he also started playing for Blyth Shamrocks, after 3 seasons he joined Northern Alliance side New Hartley Rovers in 1913.
He first came to Blyth’s attention on 17th September 1913 when a 4,000 crowd inside Croft Park saw Blyth beat Rovers 3-2 thanks to a last minute winner in an FA Cup Preliminary Round tie.
However it was the lighting pace of the 18 year old that had caught the attention, Ted scored the goal that had made it 2-2.

Such was his pace he was a regular winner of local professional sprint races and often took home more in race prize money than he earned for playing football.

IMG_5252He joined Blyth in 1914 when New Hartley Rovers disbanded fearing the impact WWI might have on the club, he scored 13 goals in his first season at Croft Park. In January 1915 Ted scored 6 goals in 3 games, on Saturday 23rd January he scored all the goals in a 4-0 Senior Cup home win over Mickley.
On Wednesday 3rd March he scored the winner in a 2-1 North Eastern League win over Gateshead it was his last goal that season before the war brought an end to football.

After WWI he rejoined the club and it only took him 8 days of the new 1919/20 season to get his first goal. He scored in the 2-0 North Eastern League home win over Newcastle United Reserves at Croft Park.
He would go on to score 10 goals that season, his form soon attracted the attentions of Liverpool & Everton but he rejected both offers to stay in his home town.
It was his performance in the final game of the season that landed him his dream move.
He starred in the 2-0 win against Newcastle United Reserves in the Aged Miners Cup Final at St James Park. So impressed with the speedy inside forward straight after the game United paid £300 for his services.

6C96927D-6706-4D32-B168-32CE9658E4EDTed made his debut on 28th August at SJP in front of 61,080 in the 0-0 draw with WBA.
His first goal came on 2nd October in the 3-0 win at Sheff Utd, he played 25 times in his debut season.
Surprisingly he failed to feature at all in the following season and was allowed to join Crystal Palace in June 1922 for £250.

He only made 4 appearances before a knee injury ended his season, he then moved to newly promoted Second Division side Nelson FC in June 1923.
Struggling to shake off the knee injury that still troubled him he only managed to play 2 games as they were relegated after only one season in the Second Division.

In November 1924 he joined Darlington playing in the side that secured promotion to the Second Division.
He wasn’t retained at the end of 1924/25 and signed for Third Division North Ashington.
It proved a great move for Ted, he scored twice on his debut in the 3-3 home draw with Wigan Borough.IMG_5338
He scored 10 goals in 25 games for the Colliers in their most successful season as a Football League side.
They finished 9th in the league beating the likes of Coventry, Crewe, Doncaster, Grimsby & Rotherham at Portland Park. The following season Ted featured regularly as they finished 16th, one place ahead of local league rivals Hartlepools United. He scored in the FA Cup 2nd Round 2-1 home win over his former club Nelson, before lost 0-2 at home to Nottingham Forest in the 3rd Round.

In 1928 he moved back across to Cumbria and joined North Eastern League Workington were he was appointed captain.

Ted ended his playing career with North Eastern League West Stanley while living back in Blyth with his brother John and sister Catherine and working as a general labourer.

Ted sadly passed away in 1971 aged 75.


  • Credits, Acknowledgements & Thank you’s:

The late Ken Sproat‘s superb book ‘The History of Blyth Spartans’ was as ever an important source of information.

Blyth Library’s excellent archive facility of the old ‘Blyth News’ papers once again proved a valuable source of information.

The following excellent websites provided important info and images:

For anything & everything Newcastle United related, is the place to go.

For details and profiles on every Newcastle United player, this superb website has it all.

Ashington FC ‘s Facebook page provided a great image of Ted and info on his time at the club.



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The Alan Shoulder story.

Alan made a name for himself in the legendary 1977/78 FA Cup run which ultimately earned him his move to Newcastle United.AS 77:78
Goal scoring exploits aside, given he
was a coal miner IMG_4754playing for a town so steeped in mining tradition Alan’s hero status was guaranteed.
To the hard working Blyth fans he was quite literally one of them.
The miner who went from working in darkness down the pit to the bright lights of St James’ Park, a true footballing rags to riches story.
But the story of his time as a Spartan is not quite as rosy as many think.

What seems to have been forgot, or maybe some didn’t even realise, is that he was with the club for less than a year. Having moved to Croft Park in early December 77 he was signed by United in late November 78, making his professional debut a day shy of a year on from his Spartans debut.

The story of his arrival and well publicised departure can been summed up as;
‘the one that very nearly didn’t happen’ and ‘the one that very nearly got away’
it all makes for quite an interesting read.


Born in Bishop Auckland on 4th February 1953, Alan had never thought of playing professionally when he took up full time work as a miner aged 18.
His allRFN_0003 action style and goalscoring exploits for Leeholme Juniors soon drew the attentions of Northern League teams.


Newly appointed Bishops manager Arnold Bell signed 19 year old Alan ahead of the 72/73 season to play alongside his new other new signing, Brian Slane from Blyth Spartans.
Alan established himself as an integral part of the Bishops side as they reached the FA Cup 2nd Round in 74/75. That season also saw him score a cup final winner when they lifted their first silverware in 8 seasons beating Ashington 2-1 in the League Cup Final at Croft Park of all places. He was top scorer for 3 seasons running and appointed club captain for the 76/77 campaign, he had also become regular in the Northern League’s Representative Select side.

bishops 76-77.jpgAfter 5 years at Kingsway the 77/78 season started with him in dispute with the club which resulted in him refusing to play.
However Bishop Auckland were not prepared to let him leave and invoked the Northern League’s ‘February First rule’.
It stated that any player who appeared for his club after February 1st was automatically re-registered to that club for the following season. Bishops wouldn’t enter into discussions, they intended to keep Alan as the rule stated they were entitled too.
He wanted to leave so in protest refused to play for them that season, playing only Sunday League football to keep himself fit.

His former Bishops teammate Brian Slane had been appointed Blyth’s player manager in February 77. Alan played for Brian’s successful Rams Head FC Sunday League side which had won the 76/77 FA Sunday Cup. They had spoken over the summer about Alan joining him at Croft Park.
Having promised Brian in the summer he would join Blyth and despite numerous attempts by Bishops to resolve the situation he held out until the move happened.

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 08.08.58It took until 6th December before Brian finally managed to strike a deal to sign Alan after agreeing to pay Bishops £200.
He made an immediate impact scoring the winner in the 70th minute of his debut the 1-0 home win over Durham City on Saturday 10th December 1977.
However the League’s Management Committee then denied him the opportunity of playing in the 1-0 FA Cup 2nd Round win over Chesterfield by not sanctioning the move in time. They delayed it because of something that had happened three years earlier!.

Manager Brian Slane explained:
“We had the deal done with Bishops and we tried to register him on December 2nd. However, because an illegal approach had been made to Alan back in 1974 which Bishops reported to the LMC they had to sanction this transfer. 
They didn’t meet to approve his transfer until December 8th and players needed to be registered at least 14 days before an FA Cup tie to qualify. We were the innocent party but were made to suffer for it due to bureaucracy”.

AS 1-0

Alan heads home the winner against Enfield.

Alan scored again, on New Years Eve when Blyth beat Horden CW 1-0 away in the League Cup, before the goal that is mistakenly claimed as his debut goal.
On Saturday 7th January, Spartans beat Enfield 1-0 at Croft Park in the FA Cup 3rd Round.
5,095 packed into Croft Park and saw the diminutive striker head home the winning goal that ended the Isthmian League sides 32 game unbeaten run.
Many papers wrongly claimed it as his debut goal and as the years passed the Enfield game has wrongly been stated as his debut.

Screen Shot 2020-01-17 at 09.59.34.pngNow established as Terry Johnson’s strike partner, the Spartans famously beat Stoke City away in the 4th Round.
It was another header from Alan that set up the equaliser.
Having lead 0-1 at half time Stoke had rallied and taken a 2-1 lead.
Blyth won a free kick, Ron Guthrie’s thunderous effort crashed into the wall. The ball spun up over the Stoke keeper and onto his left hand post. Alan reacted the quickest but his header then agonisingly hit the opposite post before falling into the path of Steve Carney who hammered it home the equaliser, the Stoke defenders appealed in vain for offside.
Terry Johnson then famously won the game in the dying minutes when he fired home a dramatic winner.

Alan played in both the 5th Round games against Wrexham, the replay was the first time he played at St James’ Park.
He was to play at St James’ once more that season before it became his home ground.
It also provided him with his first medal as a Spartan when they beat North Shields 2-1 win the Senior Cup Final at St James’ Park.
Alan then added another two medals in the space of a week. He took his tally to 20 goals in 35 games, scoring twice as Blyth beat Willington 5-1 in the Northern League Cup Final.

The historic 77/78 season ended with a hat trick of medals when Spartans gained some revenge on Wrexham beating them 3-2 on aggregate to claim The Debenhams Cup.

ASThe new 78/79 campaign started with the club on a high, however despite starting well things didn’t quite work out as hoped.
The final pre season friendly saw Dutch side FC Den Bosch beaten 4-1 at Croft Park. Alan scored his only Blyth hat trick under the watchful eye of Newcastle boss Bill McGarry.

In early October the club rewarded Alan with his first ever contract, but by the time the FA Cup came around again on 25th November he was at loggerheads with the club.
They had become embroiled in a bitter row than stemmed from the signing of his contract.
On Tuesday 31st October Alan submitted a shock transfer request.
article-1357857-02EAC3C9000005DC-854_306x423He informed the club that he wanted to move closer to his Durham home, stating the travelling had become too much since recently moving pits to Horden Colliery:
“It’s 90 miles a trip and it’s getting harder and harder. I have changed pits where I work and this means a longer journey for me everyday, then going off to Blyth is no joke.
will be sorry to leave but I’m not being fair to myself or the club if i can’t train.
I have got my job to think of more than anything else and that’s why I want a transfer”.

However the result of a Croft Park board meeting on Tuesday 7th November was a clear – ‘You stay at Blyth’.Screen Shot 2020-01-14 at 16.23.46

The bombshell request for a move had come as the bitter row escalated.
Alan accused the club of discriminating against him for playing Sunday League football for Coundon Club after he signed his contract. He felt they did not take the same action against other players whom he claimed to know were also playing Sunday League.
Following his transfer request the club then suspended him for 10 days for breach of contract for playing Sunday League.
Alan was livid and a war of words ensure over the coming weeks:
“I played one game after signing the contract. I did this because I know, and everyone in the club knows, other Blyth contracted players have played Sunday football since the start of the season. They did not suspend them.
I only played one game and was suspended – I think I’ve have been hard done by. I’m upset about it and feel very bitter”.

Alan believed his request to leave had sparked the club’s actions, manager Brian Slane accused Alan of trying to ‘cast blame’ to try and draw it away from himself.
A claim he wasn’t having:
“Other players in the team have been playing on Sunday, they admit this. I asked Brian Slane what was going to happen to them and he said it was a different matter!.
If Blyth say  I can’t go, it will probably have to go to the FA. I will have to name names of other Blyth players playing on Sundays if it comes to that.
To suspend me and not them is just discrimination against me”.

The Blyth manager was at a loss on how the in the whole situation had come about and even offered a solution:
“I’m bitterly disappointed and very surprised he does not want to play for Blyth any more. He was out of non league football when I brought him to the club and provided him with the best season he has ever had. Alan was not forced to sign a contract and then he choose to play Sunday football.
Everyone is allowed a indiscretion. As far As I’m concerned the hatchet is buried. I hope he will accept his punishment and come back and play for Blyth.
If he finds the travelling too much he can train at home – many other clubs have players do this. Alan is the best striker in non league football – you can’t just pick up a replacement for him like that. The board have said he stays and I agree. There is no way we are going to let him go“.

A rival Northern League were reported to be interested in signing him and Alan admitted to having been approached.
Spennymoor United then approached the Spartans officially about signing Alan and the two clubs were reported to be in negotiations, Alan spoke about his impending move:
“I know Blyth and Spennymoor are talking now but I could not say when my transfer will go through. I’m sorry to leave Blyth but the travelling has just become too much. If i lived up there I would not want to leave especially when the cup is coming up again. But my job and home are more important”

He was adamant he was leaving but stated he was prepared to play on until his transfer went through but felt his form was suffering from missing training:
“Blyth might insist on keeping me but there would not be much point in doing that because there is no chance of me changing my mind. I’m very sorry to leave because Spartans are the best team I have played for, but I live nearer to Spennymoor”.

Spennymoor boss Kenny Banks would only admit his club were keeping a close watch on the situation:
“Obviously Alan is a good player and any club not interested in signing him would be insane. We like to have the best players in the league in out team and he certainly is one of them. We are watching the situation very closely now to see what happens”.

Banks would not be drawn on claims that they has spoken to the player before speaking to his club.
Alan missed three games due to the suspension, returning to the side as sub for the home league game against Whitby Town on Saturday 18th November.
He came off the bench to score in the 3-2 win at home win but by then the situation had taken a turn for the worse.

Screen Shot 2020-01-14 at 16.16.24.pngHe submitted a second transfer request in an attempt to force the clubs hand, it was discussed at another board meeting.
As the club prepared for an FA Cup tie at York City officials reluctantly accepted they had lost the battle to keep their star striker.
Having been to watch York in action Brian Slane wasn’t giving up on his star striker:
“I consider him a very important part of my team and be would be a vital cog in the game against York City.”.

Unsurprisingly after the events of the last few weeks that York City game changed everything.


Alan is sent tumbling for the penalty at York City.

Alan started the tie at York and ran them ragged as Blyth deservedly earned a home replay. It was one of his trademark mazy runs that led to Blyth goal, winning the penalty  which Terry Johnson scored from.
Newcastle legend Jackie Milburn was a friend of Blyth chairman Jim Turney and had spoken to him and Brian Slane to get a picture of Alan’s character.
Scouting him again at both York City cup ties, Newcastle officials to make their move.
They spoke to Alan straight after York City replay, stating their interest and inviting him to a meeting at St James’ Park the following Monday.
The epic replay played on a snow covered Croft Park proved to be a fitting swansong in green & white for Alan.
He scored twice from the spot as the game went to extra time before the league team eventually ran out 3-5 winners.
However there was nearly yet another twist in the saga. After the final whistle York manager Charlie Wright approached Brian Slane in the Croft Park boardroom and asked him to name his price for Alan.
Brian response was to point to a gentleman stood with his back to them and say:
“See that gentleman over there, that’s Newcastle boss Bill McGarry he’s just agreed to sign for them”.
Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 08.27.03After only 48 games for the Spartans in which he scored 29 goals he was suddenly a professional footballer.
All parties agreed on the deal at the Monday meeting, the the deal was signed on the Tuesday. The fee was £20,000 with another £5,000 if he played a certain number of first team games. He met and trained with his new team mates on the Wednesday and made his debut on the Saturday.

Alan’s wages jumped from the £14 per week Blyth paid him to £180 per week awith another £300 bonuses on offer.
Having started a colliery under management course at Horden Colliery, United even offered Alan the chance to continue his studies provided it could be arranged it with the National Coal Board.

His debut was on Saturday 9th December at St James’ Park in the 2-0 win over Stoke City. He scored his first goal a week later firing home after only 7 minutes in the 3-1 win at Fulham.
JS81777469He scored a very creditable 11 goals in 28 appearances that first season as United’s finished 7th in the Second Division.
In his three & half years at St James’ Park.
His all action non stop running performances saw him become a real crowd favourite. He made 117 appearances scoring 38 goals before being allowed to leave in the summer of 1982.
He was immediately snapped-up by Carlisle United manager Bob Stokoe.
AS CUFCHis first season at Brunton Park was a great success, in 46 appearances he scored 21 goals.
It would take another 11 season before a Carlisle player scored 20 goals in a season, David Reeves in the 94/95.

POY 83

Alan is presented with his Player of the Year Award.

Alan was voted their player of the season for 82/83, being presented the award on the ground at which he’s scored his first Newcastle goal five years earlier, Craven Cottage.
Carlisle’s New Years Day fixture of 1983 took Alan back to St James’ Park where he received a hero’s welcome from both the home and travelling support. He scored the game’s opening goal in a thrilling 2-2 draw.

Alan made 112 appearances in total for Carlisle scoring 32 goals but injury hit plagued 84/85 campaign, he moved to Hartlepool United.Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 08.59.43
The moved once again reignited his form, he played 76 times for Pools scoring 26 goals, he was top scorer in 85/86.
He made his final football league appearance aged 34 on Wednesday, 16th September 1987 in Hartlepool’s 2-1 home win over Cambridge United.
After 286 football league appearance and 91 goals an eye injury forced him to retire as a professional in December 1988, but he continued playing with Ferryhill Athletic.

Moving into management and coaching became assistant at Gretna, and then a coach at Newcastle Blue Star. He managed several clubs, including Coundon, Crook Town, Bishop Auckland, Willington, West Auckland Town and still played for Stanley. He was sent off at the ripe old age of 47 for arguing with a referee in a Durham Challenge Cup tie.
Alan still carried on playing ‘occasionally’, he was 53 years old when he played his final game, for Brandon United against Dunston.

After a brief spell as caretaker manager of Gateshead he return to Blyth in May 1988 being appointed manager.
ASHe was one of five players from that 77/78 side to manage the club, but sadly his reign only lasted 14 games.
It is the shortest reign ever by a Blyth manager with only 4 wins from 14 games.
In a cruel twist of fate having made his name at Blyth in the FA Cup 11 years on it was to end his managerial career at Croft Park.
He resigned in early October 98′ following a 2nd Qualifying Round home replay defeat to Runcorn.

31 years after that famous 77/78 cup run Alan’s fame still shone brightly, he was guest on a BBC Football Focus feature about the cup run prior shown to the Spartans 3rd Round tie against Blackburn Rovers in 2009 –


Alan is a highly respected and hugely popular figure with North East football fans.
Always approachable, he loves recalling the stories of his career and of course getting together with his teammates from that famous
cup run which propelled him into professional football.

A true North East footballing legend.


  • Credits, Acknowledgements & Thank You’s:

Thanks to –

Kevin Tilmouth, his recollections of the events during October/November 1978 inspired this article.

Mark Carruthers, supplied an image used.

Credits –

The late Ken Sproat‘s superb book ‘The History of Blyth Spartans’ was as ever an important source of information.

Blyth Library’s excellent archive facility of the old ‘Blyth News’ papers once again proved a valuable source of information.

The following excellent websites provided important info and images:

A superb database of all UK Transfers from 1946/47 and the end of the 2013/14.

For anything & everything Newcastle United related, is the place to go..

For details and profiles on every Newcastle United player, this superb website has it all.

For everything Hartlepool United related. History, old players, stats & facts this website has it all.

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Spartans super fan is still counting.

Being a lifelong supporter of a football club can often mean its becomes part of your family. Events are arranged, even rescheduled to fit in with matches.
For some fans certain games can be missed however others wouldn’t ever think of missing a game.
How about not missing a single game your club has played for 32 years !.

That is what Blyth Spartans fan Jeff Young has achieved.

The first game of the 2019/20 season was the 1,753rd consecutive Spartans game he has watched since he last missed a game.

Jeff can’t exactly recall his very first Spartans game but can vividly remember when his run started; Saturday 31st January 1987.

The date and game, North Shields at home in a Northumberland Senior Cup Quarter Final tie, is easy for him to recall.
It came 4 days after the club had made an epic 640 mile round trip to play at Bath City in a midweek FA Trophy 2nd Round replay.
The reason he can pin point it so easily is down to the fact he wasn’t at Twerton Park, Bath that night but he could and should have been.

All these years later its still annoys him he wasn’t at that game.
Back in January 1987 there was no mobile phones or internet so contacting your friends wasn’t as instantaneous as it is today.
He had been unable to find a lift to the game so resorted to following the match the only way possible back then, the black and green twilight world of Ceefax:
“I remember sitting in front of the television, waiting for the page to update, watching and waiting for the score to appear.”

In the late 80’s Ceefax was the main way football scores appeared to the mass public after the final whistle, but it was a slow process:
“I don’t think the score came through until half an hour after full-time. There was no instant communication in those days. Eventually I saw it – we won 1-0 after extra time”.

The following Saturday at the home game with North Shields he found out that some friends had driven down to the match. They were very surprised he had not made it down to Bath.
He recalled how they had wrongly assumed he was making his own way there:
“When I saw my mates at the North Shields game one asked, why didn’t you come to Bath?.”
Informing them he had no way of getting there, the reply wasn’t what he wanted to hear:
You could have got a lift with us – there was space in the car!’
“Now you tell me, I thought. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry – or hit him!”.

That is why the game against North Shields on Saturday 31st January 1987 is one he’ll never forget, it was the start of his extraordinary 32 year unbroken run.
I must be pointed out that despite wrongly assuming and causing him to miss that game at Bath we are all still good friends. We have enjoyed many great moments together since, such as beating Shrewsbury Town 3-1 at home in the FA Cup in November 2008.

As the years and season’s ticked by his unbeaten run somewhat crept up on him, it wasn’t until April 2005 that he even started to keep a record.
He recalled that it took another supporter reaching 1,000 consecutive games for him to realise just how many he had seen:
“I didn’t have a clue how many games I’d done – I didn’t keep count.
Then our former secretary, Anne Donnelly, did her 1,000th game in a row and received a lot of publicity. I spoke to her, said I hadn’t missed a match since Bath, and asked how many I was on. Anne was very much the statistician. She came back a week or two later and said:
‘My 1000th game was your 700th game in a row’.

“After that, I lost track again. Then at the end of one season, I came in from work one day, and there was a card on the doorstep.
It said: ‘That game at Bamber Bridge was your 1,004th consecutive game. I’m glad there’s someone as crazy as me. The card was from Anne, and since then I’ve kept a record.”

Jeff, who grew up in from Stakeford but now lives in Blyth, was in opposing camps to his other school friends who supported Newcastle United, he supported his local team.
The draw of Newcastle United just never really appealed to him:
“When I was younger and Blyth didn’t have a home game, like other youngsters I was drawn to St. James’ Park.
But it was so impersonal ­ I just don’t feel connected like I did when watching Blyth.
It just didn’t grab me the way watching Blyth Spartans had”

Having started watching the Spartans in the 70’s he became hooked by the famous 1977/78 FA Cup run:
“I was a young lad, growing up, and to see those games was amazing,”
“It just kicked on from there. It’s difficult to sum up getting the bug. I simply got on the bandwagon and didn’t get off”.

Jeff has not just been a supporter all these years, he is one of the army of volunteers that keep the club going.
He has served in an several official capacities:
“It’s just great to be involved with the club.
It takes up all my spare time but I enjoy it – I wouldn’t do the jobs I do if I didn’t.
I’m first and foremost a supporter and if I can help in any way on top of that I will”.

After serving on the Supporters Club committee for 10 years the club asked him to become their match secretary.
In August 2012 when the clubs legendary kit man Tony Kennedy retired they approached him about taking over the role. For several years he combined the role of kit man and fixture secretary. A perk of holding those positions is that they have afforded him the benefit of travelling to matches on the team bus.
A little side hobby over the years from being the kit man has seen him accumulated the biggest known collection of Spartans shirts, including many rare match worn shirts.

The opening league game of the 2020/21 season brought the 10th manager he has worked with during his years as a volunteer.
When Jeff first volunteered at the club in 2002 Paul Baker was the manager.
Since then he has seen Graham Fenton (caretaker), Harry Dunn, Mick Tait, Steve Cuggy, Tommy Cassidy, Paddy Atkinson, Tom Wade, Alun Armstrong and now Lee Clark all in the Croft Park hot seat.Armstrong-Hooks
Many past managers have acknowledged Jeff’s dedication and work for the club. They have also benefited from his encyclopedic knowledge of past games and opponents Spartans faced over the years.

He has seen the clubs fortunes change considerably in his 32 year run.
From being the dominating force in the Northern League in the late 70’s and early 80’s to stagnating and almost folding in 1991.
In 1994 under new a regime the club finally took the long overdue step up onto the then named ‘Non League Pyramid’ and joined the Northern Premier League.
The move brought him whole new challenge. Away games in once seemingly far flung places such as Lancashire & Nottinghamshire were no longer just possible cup tie destinations, the likes of Fleetwood and Eastwood were now league opponents.

He has witnessed some great successes but life in the now ‘National League System’ hasn’t been without it’s problems.
In 2011 an unpaid tax bill saw the club come with hours of going under.
Since being saved by local businessmen the club has flourish.
Jeff has seen the ground that has become his second home transformed into the best Non League ground in the region.
Success on the pitch has also followed another NPL title and two historic FA Cup runs that took the famed cup fighters to the 3rd Round.

Unsurprisingly there is an FA Cup theme running through Jeff’s record.
His 1200th consecutive game was the live 3rd Round cup tie against Blackburn Rovers in 2009.
In September 2014 the BBC’s Radio London’s Non League Show named him as their ‘Fan of the Week’ when they heard he was approaching 1,500 games.

In November 14′ Blyth had battled their way to a 31st appearance in the FA Cup 1st Round.
The national football media picked up on the tie against Altrincham being his 1,500 consecutive game.
A comprehensive 4-1 win set up a 2nd Round tie away at struggling 2nd Division Hartlepool United.
The game was picked by the BBC for live coverage, as kit man he took his place on the bench as the Spartans pulled off a dramatic last gasp win on live TV.

Football isn’t his only hobby Jeff is a serious music fan.
Before taking up the roles that afforded him travel on the team bus, countless away days on the supporters buses were always accompanied by his copy of the iconic magazine the Record Collector.
His other great passion is motor racing, he is massive Formula One fan and recently achieved an ambition when he attended the iconic Monaco Grand Prix.

Despite having witnessed and even been part of some truly famous games in his remarkable run, Jeff’s all time favourite Blyth games isn’t one you would ever imagine.
None of the dramatic tie in the two recent runs to the FA Cup 3rd Round or any from the two recent NPL seasons that saw Blyth amass a remarkable 200 points.

The game is one that sums up what following your club through thick and thin is all about. Your enjoyment of the cup run highs and success is amplified because you unwaveringly stood by your team during the difficult times.
His favourite game ever was nothing at stake Northern League game on a bitterly cold winters day in 1993.
Murton at home on Saturday 13th February.
It also happened to be departing manager Ronnie Walton’s last game in charge before he moved away due to work.
His side were without 3 keys players injured in a 8-3 mauling of Easington four days earlier.

Jeff recalled that bitterly cold February day:
We had two men sent off and played for over an hour with nine men. It was 1-1 at the time. There was a group of us congregated behind the goal and none of us thought we’d win, but we did. It was incredible really.”

It was a remarkable performance from a Blyth side who showed that never say die attitude the club are known for. They had taken a 4th minute lead only for the visitors to level two minutes later and it soon got worse. In the 15th minute midfielder Steve Plaskett was sent off and then 20 minutes later left back Gary Hays was also shown a red card.
Despite intense pressure Blyth held out until half time and then remarkably took a 65th minute lead when Shaun Dunn fired home. With 10 minutes left the legendary Steve Pyle crash home a penalty after being sent tumbling in the box. Against the odds the 9 men Spartans were worthy of their 3-1 lead, Murton striker Paul Robson pulled a goal back in the 89th minute but Ronnie Walton’s side held on for the most unlikeliest of, but fully deserved victories.

Of the hundreds of players he has seen play for the club over the years picking his favourite XI was not an easy task:
“There have been so many great players. For me the 77/78 cup run side are the greatest Blyth team ever. So for me so to choose my all time XI, I would have to intentionally leave them out and pick other players”.

After much thought Jeff came up with his best XI and went for a 4-3-3 formation –

GK – Adam Bartlett.
Honourable mentions to Craig Turns and Mark Bell.

DEF – Michael Farrey, Alan Walker, Richard Pell, Dave Mitchinson RIP.
Honourable mentions to Gary Hays, Gareth Williams and Anth Lowther RIP.

MID – Paul Walker, Gareth McCabe, Stephen Turnbull.
Honourable mentions to Alex and Liam Gildea

FOR – Les Mutrie, Steve Pyle, Robert Dale .
Honourable mentions to Richie Bond, Scott Bell RIP, Paul Brayson and Dan Maguire.


How has he managed to achieve such a long run of attending games you may wonder.
While work commitments stop many others from regularly attending games his working hours have actually helped.
Jeff’s shift work job at an electronics factory has been a big factor in him getting the time off needed. Colleagues willing to swap shifts when games such a cup replays crop up at short notice has also been crucial:
“You have to have flexible shifts if you’re getting in from a midweek away game at 3am”.

Having watched his team play in Scotland and Wales he has clocked up some serious mileage over the years. His furthest travel came in December 2008 when the FA Cup 2nd Round draw put together the two teams geographically furthest apart.
A 727 mile round trip to see Blyth draw 0-0 with AFC Bournemouth.
Jeff is used to putting in the hard miles, his total includes a 500 mile round trip to Worcester for a midweek cup replay.
Then there was a midweek 428 mile round trip to Corby in February 2010, for a game which ended up being abandoned before half time due to fog with the Spartans losing 2-0!. He then did the exact trip again when the rearranged game was also played midweek.

Now in the 33rd season of his epic run he will surpass the 1,800 mark with his sights firmly set on reaching 2,000 games not out.

Pure dedication from a true Spartan.


Credits, Acknowledgements & Thank You’s:

Jeff himself – over the years of writing this blog he has helped enormously.
His memory and knowledge has proved vital, anything I can’t recall then a quick message to him and the reply is instant.

Several of our friends have helped provide some of the images used.

The following websites provided information from articles they’ve ran on Jeff’s achievements over the years –

Also the clubs website & Twitter page has provided info and images used –


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The Debenhams Cup finally comes home.

Back in May 2012 when I started this blog about Blyth Spartans history the first article I wrote was about their 1978 Debenhams Cup win.

That win holds a very important place in the clubs long and proud history as it is the only national competition they have ever won!.

The Debenhams Cup was one several 70’s football competitions that has long since been forgotten. 
Why it was never played again was unknown as was the whereabouts of the actual trophy itself.

Over the years several fruitless attempts had been made to find the trophy.
Prior to the club’s centenary exhibition in 1999 Blyth officials contacted the FA and Debenhams in an attempt to find it.
The FA replied stating they had no knowledge of it and Debenhams didn’t even reply.

Chester City were the inaugural winners in 1977 and returned the trophy ahead of the following years competition.
In February 2001 Chester City and Blyth meet in an FA Trophy tie. City’s match programme carried the story of their Debenhams Cup win and a piece on how they had previously tried to find the trophy.

It seemed the solid silver trophy had simply vanished without a trace.
That was until a snippet of information came to light in February 2019 that amazingly led to it resurfacing after all these years.

While researching information about the Spartans manager at the time of the competition, Brian Slane, I came across the briefest of mentions of the cup in the Blyth library archives.
A small article in an 1980 edition of the Blyth News led to the crucial breakthrough.
It reported that 2 years after winning the trophy Debenhams Head Office had contacted the club out of the blue requesting their trophy back.
With the competition not being staged again and with no request for its return forthcoming the club had simply kept hold of it.
The letter from Debenhams stated they wanted the trophy back to use for a golf tournament they were holding. So in the spring of 1980 club officials returned the trophy and that was the last it was heard of for 39 years.

That was until the remarkable events of Thursday 28th February 2019 unfolded and the power of social media took hold.

Having found the snippet of information I posted the updated news about the Debenhams Cup on my Blyth Spartans history Facebook page and also on a page dedicated to ‘English Football in the 70’s’.

That post was read by West Ham fan Michael Gibbins and triggered a distant memory.
Michael worked for Debenhams and replied stating that he possibly knew of the trophy’s whereabouts!.

Michael had started working for Debenhams in 1999 so was unaware of the previous attempts to find the trophy.
However, in 2013 they had moved Head Office and as part of his job in the Debenhams Facilities team he was tasked with getting all their archive material from its temporary home in Guildford to the new office in Regents Place, London.

Upon reading the post something struck a chord with him from that move six years earlier. He recalled there had been several trophies in a store-room in Guilford that were moved to the new office.

He went straight to the ‘store-room’ and sure enough his memory had served him well.
The Debenhams Cup was indeed one of those trophies.
In disbelief that it had been finally been found and seemingly in Debenhams possession all these years I asked if Michael could send photographic proof.

Enquiring if there was any way in which my club could have the trophy back, Michael showed my post to his boss Alison Flynn and told her the background story.
They were completely unaware of the relevance of the seemingly random trophy sat in their store room.
Alison also happened to be the Executive Assistant to the CEO of Debenhams PLC, Sergio Bucher.
She approached him and explained what had happened that morning.
He was fascinated to read all about their trophy, which was now proudly on display in the main office.
To his credit he didn’t hesitate for one moment in stating it should be back where it belonged, with Blyth Spartans.
Alison informed me of the good news and that she was arranging for its immediate return.

Cup Hand over

Debenhams Regional Manager Jo Golightly returns the trophy.

Within a matter of days it had been sent by courier up to the MetroCentre store in Gateshead for me to personally collect.
After all these years Debenhams PLC could not have been more helpful.
For a such big company who have more than enough to deal with in the current economic climate, their involvement in its return from an employee up to the CEO has to be commended.

The remarkable story was soon seized upon by the press.

Esteemed NorScreen Shot 2019-03-29 at 12.32.49th East Footballer writer, John Gibson picked up on the trophy’s reappearance.
The voice of Newcastle United for the North East’s Chronicle newspaper since 1966, John has been involved with Non League football for many years and is a personal friend of many of Blyth’s 77/78 FA Cup heroes so he was very keen to run the story:

The story was also picked up by the papers multimedia team who were keen to run their own feature from a local history aspect:

The Chester press also ran the story, ChesterLive contacted me about the find and ran the story of how it had been found 42 years after they won it:


The club was informed of the remarkable find and arranged for me to present trophy to the manager who won the cup back in 1978.

It was the last trophy that club legend Brian Slane won as Blyth manager and he was delighted to be reunited with it. He was completely unaware of the trophies amazing story since that day back in May 1978.

The Debenhams Cup now takes pride of place in the clubs sponsors suite to proudly show off the club’s only national trophy.


The history of the trophy, which stands 22 inches tall and weighs nearly 100 ounces, dates back to 1930 and was made by Sheffield silversmiths; Atkin Brothers.

The Atkin Brothers business traces it’s origin to Thomas Law, a silversmith active in Sheffield from c. 1750 to 1775.
The firm opened offices in London, managed by Harry Atkin, in 1925 and became a limited company as Atkin Brothers (Silversmiths) Ltd.
Manufacturing a range of electroplated, Britannia Metal, silver and plated cutlery they supplied many firms in the United Kingdom and the Colonies.

atkinscatalogo22BISHaving a London office led to them supplying cutlery and silverware to Debenhams from 1928 onwards. In 1930 they were tasked with producing the trophy, however there is no record of why it was originally commissioned or its use in the intervening years.
In 1977 the trophy was re appropriated for their newly sponsored football competition.
The engraving, which was a factor part in it resurfacing, was a late addition.
Publicity photos issued before the trophy was first presented in May 1977 show it without ‘The Debenhams Cup’ engraving.
It was engraved at some point prior to Chester winning it, images of their captain Alan Oakes with the cup clearly show the wording.
The Chester v. Port Vale match programme featured an entirely different image to that used on the Blyth v. Wrexham programme a year later and neither images have the engraving. Yet the Wrexham programme from the 1978 final 1st Leg shows a trophy with the engraving, all three images are different.

*No programme from the Port Vale v. Wrexham 1977 Final 1st Leg has ever come to light so what if any image appeared on it is unknown.

Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 15.00.28Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 15.02.12Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 15.08.40


While the Debenhams Cup is an important part of Blyth Spartans history it is an equally important part of the FA Cup’s history.

Uniquely it was the first time a sponsor had been associated with the competition.
It would be another 18 years before the FA allowed another company to be associated with its world famous competition.

An iconic and important piece of English football’s history has returned from the dead and is now proudly back where it belongs.


Credits, Acknowledgements & Thank You’s:

Michael Gibbins – without his involvement absolutely none of this would have been possible.

The superb Facebook page – English Football in the 70’s
Without that Facebook page existing the trophy would probably never have been found.

Alison Flynn – Executive Assistant to CEO & Interim Chairman of Debenhams PLC for taking an interest and initiating the cups return.

Sergio Bucher – CEO of Debenhams for also taking such an interest in our club’s quest and agreeing to return the trophy.

Jo Golightly – Store Manager of Metro Centre Debenhams for arranging the hand over.

Journalists John Gibson & David Sedgwick – for picking up the story and giving it some much coverage locally.

The following newspapers for taking such an interest and running the story –
The Chronicle

The News Post Leader

Blyth Spartans club photographers:
Kris Hodgetts –
Bill Broadley
who both supplied images used.

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Green & White Cult Heroes – Brian Slane

Some footballers are synonymous with certain clubs and some are even legends of their clubs.
However, a select few transcend even that.

Brian Slane is one of those elite people, he was irrevocably involved in a decade that defined Blyth Spartans Football Club and changed it’s course forever.

Brian was 28 when he joined the Spartans in the summer of 1969. He had already gained a reputation as one of the most prolific goal scorers in the region.
Manager Jackie Marks needed a goalscorer and knew who he wanted. Little did he know just what impact his new striker would have upon the club.

Born in Consett on the 19th September 1941, it was as an 11-year-old that Brian met his first footballing hero. Upon joining the Grove Boys Brigade he played for their football team which was run by Arnold Bell.
IMG_9159Bell played for Newcastle United’s youth team so was a real hero to the youngsters becoming their inspiration.

After leaving school Brian began work as an engineering draughtsman at the Consett Iron Company. In 1958, aged only 17, he joined Tow Law Town and a lifelong friendship began.
Arnold Bell was now playing for the Lawyers and took Brian under his wing.

He never forgot his debut, away at two times Amateur Cup winners Crook Town.
It was a Northern League baptism of fire, lining up against a County Durham sporting hero.
Their left back Bert Steward, not only captained Crook to their Wembley victories he also played Championship cricket for the County.
Playing as a right-winger his pre-match instructions were to ‘just run his legs off Steward’.
It didn’t go to plan as Brian recalled:
“He kicked the hell out of me. The only kicks I got were up the backside as he had too much experience for me”.

A few games later he realised a bit more know-how was required to play at that level so went back to playing local Sunday football with his friends.
He soon caught the eye of his home town club Consett, they had been playing in the Wearside League following the collapse of the North Eastern League in 1964.
The Ironworkers were one of the top sides in a highly competitive league comprising mainly of colliery welfare sides and works teams.
Finding the league more suitable he played up front in a free scoring side that recorded over 100 goals in 4 consecutive seasons.
His form earned him a call up to the Durham County team becoming the first ever player selected from a club outside the Northern League.

Upon qualifying as a draughtsman his thoughts turned to a possible teaching career so
in 1967 he took a teacher training course in Huddersfield.
He spent a year in West Yorkshire without playing any football while on the course.
After completing his training he returned home taking up a post at Ryton Comprehensive, eventually becoming Head of Year teaching maths and tech drawing.

He started playing Sunday football again with his mates for the ‘The Back O Shaft’ pub in Leadgate. 
Arnold Bell was now the manager of Consett and having watched Brian several times asked him to rejoin them in early September 1968.

Reaching the FA Cup 4th Qual. Round for a fourth time as a Wearside League club, Consett were drawn against South Shields for the third time in five seasons.
Brian scored the goal that claimed an excellent 1-1 draw at Simonside Hall.
The replay had to be played at Roker Park because Consett’s Belle Vue Park had no floodlights.
The Northern Premier League side ran out comfortable 6-0 winners, but Brian’s performances had caught the eye of Shields manager Alf McMichael.
A few days later having managed to get hold of Brian’s phone number he rang him to make an offer as Brian recalled:
“As they were in the Northern Premier League and Consett in the Wearside League, two leagues below, I could see myself spending more time on the bench.
Therefore I politely thanked him and said I was enjoying playing with mates at Consett and refused his kind offer”.

McMichael didn’t give up, and a couple of days later he was on the phone again with an improved offer.
Brian was still unsure:

“The thought of playing in the NPL wasn’t holding me back it was more how could I see myself playing regularly in their team”.
He sought the his advice of his manager and friend Arnold Bell:
“Arnold told me to take the move as they had offered more per game than I got per season at Consett. Even if I was to play out the season at South Shields it was financially worth the move. Arnold said he would always welcome me back if it didn’t work out”.

It proved a successful move. South Shields had joined the NPL for its inaugural season achieving an excellent 4th place finish.
Brian partnered Len Smith up front and the free scoring duo helped them record some impressive victories including a superb 3-1 win at Wigan Athletic.

It was Saturday 15th February’s home win over Runcorn that caught the headlines.
They won 8-2 with Brian and Len each scoring four in either half!. Brian made such an impact that he was voted runner-up to the legendary Gerry Donoghue in the clubs Player of the Year awards.

It wasn’t the trophy he won that season, his other one came with a different club thanks to his mentor Arnold Bell.
When Brian left Consett to join South Shields, Arnold had the foresight to ensure he kept Brian’s signature on a joint registration so he was able to call upon Brian if it didn’t clash with a South Shields game. It only happened the once and that occasion arose on 23rd April 1969.
Screenshot 2022-02-19 at 16.13.46Consett were due to face Northern League side Ferryhill Athletic in the Final of the Durham County Challenge Cup when Arnold’s preparations were throw into turmoil when star player.
When right winger Doug Morris was ruled out due to injury, the wily manager played his trump card and called up Brian fill in the position.
It was an inspired move by the manager as the Steelmen upset their higher league opponents with an impressive 2-0 win to become the first Wearside League club to win the prestigious Durham Challenge Cup.

When the travelling involved proved more of an issue than the level of football, Blyth made their move.
Spartans first encountered Brian on 28th September 1968, just before he joined South Shields. They had played Consett at home in an Amateur Cup 1st Qual. Round tie.
A Des Jardine goal won a close fought tie 1-0 but the highlight of the game, as noted by the Blyth News reporter, was the ‘battle’ between Ronnie Scott and the –
‘tall, hard running striker for Consett, Brian Slane’.

One of Brian’s teammates at South Shields worked for Blyth chairman Jim Turney in his construction firm. Jim asked him to sound out Brian to see if he was interested in joining the Spartans. Having received a favourable resigningply, Turney acted quickly to beat off other interest and arranged to drive down to meet Brian at his home to sort out a deal.
Delighted with his new signing, he claimed:
“with Brian’s goals we would have won the title last season!”.
Highly respected local journalist Bob Moreland was suitably impressed with the capture, acclaiming it:
“The most impressive Northern League signing for some time.”
The Blyth News announced Spartans had signed:

“the tall, red-headed striker, who is extremely fast and noted for his heading ability”.

Brian didn’t actually meet his new manager Jackie Marks until his first game of the new season, but they hit it off instantly.
Unsurprisingly, it was a scoring debut.
On Wednesday 27th August 1969 he opened his Blyth account in the 5-1 midweek win over Ferryhill Athletic.
A week later he scored the first of what would be 12 hat tricks for the club in a 6-2 win at Crook Town, it also included his first penalty.
The accolades were soon flowing, the Blyth News likened him to a certain Newcastle United striker following his performance in the 2-1 victory over Bishop Auckland:
‘Although it is obviously a different class of football one tends to think of Slane as being in the same mould as Wyn Davies.
There are obvious physical similarities and Slane like Davis usually takes two defenders with him where ever he goes. He is good in the air and can out-jump most defenders. Again like Davies he takes a lot of ‘stick’. On Saturday almost every time he went for the ball in the air an elbow was pushed in his back, or his shirt was held however it failed to stop him’.

Only a month into his Blyth career he set a club goalscoring record which still stands to this day!.
On 25th September he scored six in the 8-2 FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round replay win over Stockton, the most scored by one player in an FA Cup tie.
Jim Turney was already predicting his new signing would break the the club’s goal scoring records held by legends; John Langland and Tommy Orrick.

However the next round saw what Brian recalled as his worst ever miss.
The 2nd Qual. Round tie with Evenwood went to a replay after a 1-1 draw at Croft Park. Blyth lost 1-2 but despite Brian scoring it was his missed penalty that lead to the defeat which haunted him: “It was a pathetic effort. I wish I could forget it, I made sure I never took penalties like that again”.

Saturday 6th December saw Brian join a unique group of Spartans as they recorded a sensational 13-0 win over Stanley United. With three minutes remaining Brian fired home his 7th goal of the game, becoming only the 4th player ever to do so.
To this day he is still the last Blyth player to score 7 goals in a game.

It proved to be Blyth’s best season since joining the Northern League in 64/65.
A 3rd place finish was achieved just missing out on the runners-up spot to Whitley Bay.
Brian’s 44 goals was the highest total by a player since Johnny Langland famously scored 57 in 1956/57.
The 92 scored was the most league goals Blyth had scored in a single season for 17 years.
Unsurprisingly, Brian was an huge hit with the fans. Goalscoring ability aside they loved this cropped hair appearance and his almost languid style of play.
The ‘Blyth Skinhead’ had become a real cult hero.

It wasn’t all good however, manager Jackie Marks had a falling out with the chairman and decided to move on.
It was a big disappointment to Brian because they had become good friends and in years to come their friendship would be rekindled to historic effect.

Former Bristol City coach Allan Jones was appointed and Brian continued to be a virtual ever-present, it was rare for him to ever miss a game.
His form saw him selected for the Northumberland County team, in doing so he became the first player ever to represent both the Durham and Northumberland County teams.
His 50th goal for the club came on 5th September 1970, hitting two in the 6-0 win at home over Stanley United.
Spartans finished 5th and Brian was again top scorer with 28 goals. However, the board felt the season fell short of their expectations when they appointed Allan Jones.

71/72 couldn’t have been more different, Spartans improved to finish runners up. Brian scored 40 goals as Jones’ side played a staggering 31 cup ties (only 7 games fewer than their league campaign).
For the first time in their history they reached the FA Cup 3rd Round thanks to superb victories over league sides Crewe Alexandra and Stockport County.
Having scored the winner in the 4th Qualifying Round replay win over Whitley Bay, Brian then scored a historic winner at Gresty Road.

The 1-0 win over Crewe Alexandra was the first time Blyth had beat a league side on their own ground in 49 years.
The winner was a slick move, Des Jardine and Gordon Atkinson combined to play in Brian. He drew in the defence before hammering home past the keeper. Of all the goals he scored that winner goes down as his greatest memory from his playing career.
While the ‘The Skinhead of Blyth’ as he was dubbed by the press, took the plaudits he was quick to acknowledge his teammates:
“The real heroes was our defence. They were magnificent that day”.

Blyth then held Reading to a 2-2 draw at Croft Park in the 3rd Round but were soundly beaten 6-1 in the replay. 
Jones’ side picked themselves up to go on a run of only one defeat in 11 games.
Brian reached the 100 goal mark on 29th January 1972 when he scored twice in the 4-0 Amateur Cup 2nd Round win at Tow Law.
Superb victories at Woking and Leatherhead took him within 90 minutes of playing at Wembley in the FA Amateur Cup Final.
Brian missed the 1-1 Quarter Final draw with Leatherhead at Croft Park due to a back injury but was fit enough for the replay victory a week later.
He recalls how the Athenian League Premier League side clearly knew about his injury and tried to exploit it:
“In the first few minutes their centre-half punched me in my back when the referee’s attention was elsewhere, obviously to try to disable me. 
It didn’t cause me a problem but to deal with him I picked up a handful of mud and when the referee was looking elsewhere I let the centre half have it full in his face. He didn’t bother me after that”.

SJP 69

Brian’s goal bound header is tipped away by Enfield keeper Andy Williams.

The Semi Final with Enfield was staged at St James’ Park, an 18,850 crowd saw Enfield prove too strong for the Spartans on the day winning 0-2.
It was a bitter blow to the club and Brian:
“The semi final defeat was a huge disappointment as we strongly fancied our chances of going all the way and winning it.
It took a while for me to get over that”.

In April 72’ with a handful of games left, Allan Jones announced he would be leaving to take up a full-time time role as manager of Fourth Division Darlington.
Brian enjoyed working under the fellow teacher and wasn’t surprised his man management had brought success:
“He was so enthusiastic and a very good talker, as a player he was great to work under”.

Brian’s first silverware as a Spartan came on 16th May 1972.
They beat North Shields 1-0 in a Northumberland Senior Cup Final replay at Whitley Bay.
As recognition for his efforts since joining, the club nominated him for a ‘Blyth Sportsmen Award’ in the Blyth Advisory Council for Sports and Recreation Awards.
However, they were unaware that the Senior Cup Final replay win would be his last competitive game for the club for some 15 months!.

Billy Bell was appointed as Jones replacement, he had won the title in each of the last three seasons with two different clubs.
BS-AW-leave.jpgWhile Bell’s methods had been successful, they didn’t suit Brian.
He had been singled out for rough treatment by Bell’s Evenwood & Spennymoor sides in previous seasons.
Pre-season training sessions proved problematic, sometimes they were not finishing until 10pm. Brian was then faced with the drive back to his Consett home.
With the commitments of his teaching job to fit in and the 110 mile round trip just for training it proved too much.
Having scored 113 goals in his 2½ years, he reluctantly decided to leave Croft Park.
He recalled that difficult decision and his reason’s for asking to leave:
“I have loved playing at Blyth, it had been the climax of my career and it was a hard decision to make. But to be fair to everybody I just couldn’t do it.”

His final game came on Saturday 29th July when he scored the in the 1-2 friendly defeat to NPL Barrow at Croft Park.
His lifelong friend Arnold Bell had just been appointed at Bishop Auckland and snapped up his services along with team-mate Alan Watson who travelled with Brian up to Croft Park.

IMG_9154Having finished 4th bottom in 1970/71 Arnold Bell transformed Bishop Auckland’s fortunes.
Brian played a vital role, scoring freely as the Bishops pushed the Spartans all the way in the race for the title.
His return to Croft Park in early September didn’t prove a good one, Spartans won 3-1.
His former team-mate Ronnie Scott set out to man mark him as Brian recalled:
“I never got a sniff all game. Scotty showed why he was one of the best defenders around”.
Having already proved he could spot a good striker when signing Brian for Consett, Arnold Bell did it again.
He signed a 19-year-old from Leeholme Juniors and partnered him up front with Brian.
That teenager was; Alan Shoulder.

Billy Bell made it 4 consecutive titles when his Blyth side pipped Bishops by 2 points.
IMG_9156Their runners-up spot was largely thanks to an unbeaten 11 game run, it included 2 vital wins over local rivals Willington in which Brian scored the winners.
It was their best finish in 6 seasons and also their first silverware in 5 years taking the Capt. G Wright Trophy for finishing runners up.
It was great first season managing at Northern League level for Arnold Bell, but someone thought different.
Bishops Chairman T.E. Hodgson had put a lot of money into building a new side and had expected them to win the title that season. Following a board meeting they made it known they were going to part company with Arnold Bell at the end of the season.
The news unsettled Brian, he couldn’t understand the chairman:
“To come second in the first season together as a team was a great achievement”.

News of Arnold Bell’s impending departure and it unsettling Brian got back to Jim Turney.
Having made it known he was open to a return Turney acted. The news was a contributing factor in him dispensing with the services of manager Billy Bell.
Turney wasn’t going to let interest from Spennymoor stop him resigning Brian, neither could have imagined how it would work out.

Brian stoops to head home his first goal back at Croft Park.

A board meeting unanimously agreed with midfielder Eddie Alder & coach Billy Fenwick being appointed joint managers for the 73/74 season.
Brian marked his first game back at Croft Park with a hat trick in the 5-1 pre-season friendly win over Alnwick Town on 11th August.
He scored 28 goals playing in all but five games that season.
He repeated his feat of two years earlier by scoring on a league ground in the FA Cup.
Blyth drew 1-1 at Grimsby Town in a 2nd round tie but Town won the replay at Croft Park 0-2.

Brian scores the equaliser at Grimsby Town.

He scored in 3 consecutive rounds of the Amateur Cup as Blyth reached the 4th Round only to lose 1-3 at eventual winners Bishop Stortford. That game proved to be the club’s last ever Amateur Cup tie. 

Blyth were pushed all the way to the final game of the season to retain their title. 
Brian’s goal in the final league game, a 1-1 home draw with Penrith on 1st May set a club record.
It was his 137th for the club, therefore beating the previous record haul set by the great George Pyke back in April 1927.
The two points dropped against Penrith and Spennymoor’s final day win meant the clubs tied on 64 points so the title had to be decided by a Play Off game.
Blyth lost their title losing 1-2 to Spennymoor in a Play Off Title decider staged at Ashington.
The team recovered to retain the Senior Cup 4 days later. Brian scored the opener in the 3-0 Final replay win over Ashington.

For the 1974/75 campaign former South Shields boss Allan O’Neill was appointed manager, Eddie Alder returned to the playing squad and Billy Fenwick to coach.

Brian fires home the winner at Willington that sealed the title.

It proved a great appointment, O’Neill’s free flowing football suited Brian. For the first time since 1903/04 Blyth scored in every game they played in a season.
Brain scored 30 goals as they swept to the Northern League title without losing a single league game, a feat that has still not been repeated.

He scored the opener in a superb 3-1 home win over NPL Scarborough in the FA Cup 4th Qual. Round to set up a home tie with Preston North End.
It wasn’t any ordinary Third Division side coming to Croft Park in the cup though.
It was a side that contained two 1966 World Cup winners; Bobby Charlton & Nobby Stiles.
Unsurprisingly the tie attracted an all ticket sell out 8,500 crowd.
Blyth stunned their illustrious visitors taking a 3rd minute lead through a spectacular Mick Dagless free kick.
That free kick came about following a customary ‘robust’ challenge by Nobby Stiles, however it was a challenge on Stiles that Brian remembers:
“I was only ever booked 3 times in my entire career and all 3 were memorable.
One was a foul on Nobby Stiles in the Preston game.

I had caught Stiles on his calf as he won the ball off me. Knowing how competitive he was I was expecting him to blow a fuse but he didn’t react at all.
After the game a bespectacled mild-mannered Stiles came up to me and kindly offered to write directly to the FA appealing the booking if I wanted him to!.
One was for kicking the ball away, it was silly of me and I never did that again.
The other was for tripping my former Bishops teammate Tony Butterfield. Tony was furious, he had won the ball fairly and was about to get away from me when I ‘caught him’ we both ended on the ground.
He jumped up grabbed me by the shirt and drew back his fist seemingly to punch me screaming “Slaney you bastard” he then thought better of it and it all ended in smiles”.

Days after the Preston defeat Brian became the first ever Spartan to score in a new competition for the club.
In 1974 the FA abandoned its policy of classifying all clubs as either fully professional or fully amateur and accordingly the Amateur Cup was abolished.
The club entered the FA Trophy and were drawn away to local rivals Ashington in a 3rd Qualifying Round tie.
Being the club’s top Amateur Cup goalscorer, 19 in 21 games, it was only fitting he scored the club’s first ever FA Trophy goal in the 1-0 win.
Brian won his 3rd Senior Cup medal when they beat Wearside League Blue Star 2-1 at St James’ Park on 16th April 75.
That wasn’t the end of the competitiveness for him though.
On Sunday 4th May he took part in one of British TV’s most iconic series.

As a local school teacher he was selected to represent ‘Consett, Derwentside’ in the hugely popular programme; It’s a Knockout.
Filmed at Beamish Park in Stanley, Heat 4 was aired at 8pm on Friday 13th June.
It featured teams from Berwick-upon-Tweed, Darlington and
Consett, Derwentside.
Along with his fellow teacher teammates they finished 3rd with 18 points. Darlington won to qualify for the next stage in Switzerland that July.

Mick Pink watches on as Brian challenges for a cross against Consett at Croft Park.

The start of the 75/76 season saw the Spartans continue their unbeaten league run. Brian scored the opening goal of the campaign, bagging a brace in the 4-0 home win over West Auckland.
He scored three times more as they extended their unbeaten run in the league to 42 games before they faced Jackie Marks North Shields side on 8th September.
Jackie Marks team finally ended the superb run with a tightly fought 3-2 victory. Brian would go onto score another 27 goals that season as Blyth retained the title with a narrow two point advantage over 2nd placed Willington.
The FA Cup saw a surprise defeat at home to Cheshire League Rossendale United at Croft Park, but a brand new cup competition brought some success.
The Rothmans Challenge Cup was a national competition played between the leagues they sponsored, Brian scored 5 times on their way to the Final.
On the 3rd April 76 Brian scored his first hat trick in over a year. Spartans recorded their biggest away victory in two years hammering Penrith 6-1, it was the second time in three days they scored six. He had bagged a brace in an epic 6-5 midweek victory over title rivals Willington 72 hours earlier.
There was a third successive appearance at St James’ Park as Blyth reached the Senior Cup Final once again. 
After a 1-1 draw with North Shields they denied Brian his third winners medal, winning the replay 1-0. It was the first time in 20 games that Blyth had failed to score.

He did end the season with a winner’s medal though. Having represented both Durham and Northumberland in the Northern Counties Amateur Championship he played in the competitions last ever game.
Following the amateur status being abolished, the popular Counties competition had suffered as various county FA’s scraped their teams.
Brian already had a winners medal with Northumberland from the 1974 2-0 win over Lancashire at Turf Moor, Burnley.
On the 8th May, Northumberland FA played Sheffield and Hallamshire C.F.A at Bramall Lane in the 1975/76 Final.
Brian played alongside fellow Spartans; John Waterson, Tommy Dixon, Mickey Pink, Ronnie Scott and the County captain Mick Dagless as they won the last ever Northern Counties Amateur Championship.

76/77 started with him juggling additional football commitments with family life and his demanding teaching job.
As the season progressed those football commitments became even more demanding in a way he had never imagined.
Having played in the Durham and District Sunday League for sides from Lanchester and Leadgate he was unexpectedly approached by committee members from The Rams Head Pub in Langley Park with an surprising offer.
Knowing he had the contacts within the region, they offered him a staggering £10 per week to become their new Player/Manager.
They planned to enter the national FA Sunday Cup, aiming to emulating Brandon United’s success of 75/76 and keep the trophy in Durham.
Brian agreed and was given the funds to build a side that was capable of winning the prestigious trophy.
His side included Blyth teammates; John Waterson, Tommy Dixon, Mick Morgan, Mick Dagless, Allan Gauden, John Tones and his former Bishops teammate Alan Shoulder.

After missing Blyth’s opening three games he made a scoring return on 2nd September hitting a brace in the 3-0 win at West Auckland. Four more were scored in the next six games, before the season’s only cup final came along.
On the 25th September Blyth faced Whitby Town at Spennymoor in the Rothmans Challenge Cup Final.
The game had been held over from the previous season due to neither club being able to agree on a suitable date.
Brian scored twice in the Final but Blyth were beaten 3-2 by their fellow Northern League opponents.

The season never reached the heights of O’Neill’s first two in charge as they struggled to put a run of form together. They crashed out of the FA Cup 0-3 at home to a Gateshead side that featured future Spartans Dave Clarke and Les Mutrie.
Following a shock 1-5 home defeat to Wearside League Blue Star in the Senior Cup Semi Final O’Neill came under serious pressure, not just from the board but from the home crowd who had turned on him.
Two wins in the next seven games led to O’Neill resigning straight after the 1-1 home draw with Durham City on Saturday 5th February.
After two successful seasons the club needed a new manager, however the board already had a plan in place.

Despite great interest in the vacant position, Jim Turney and his board believed they knew who their new manager would be. The merits of a mystery manPlayer/Manager had been discussed at several of their weekly board meetings.
They had all agreed on the idea but still had to speak to the person they had effectively given the job to.
Blyth News Post reporter Roger Brown got wind of an impending appointment and that it could to be former Blyth player.
He mistakenly believed it was going to be Peter Feenan who was Player/Manager of Blue Star. Turney wasn’t giving the game away cryptically telling the reporter:
“I cannot reveal who the likely new man is, but I’m optimistic he will become the new manager. I expect the choice to be hugely popular but can’t say if he has previous connections with Croft Park”.

Brian was officially appointed on Monday 14th February and recalls how it came about:
Appointed“George Watson (secretary) phoned one night about a footballing matter and asked if I had ever thought of managing Blyth.
I said, I hadn’t and that we already had a manager.
George persisted with ‘well you know maybe in the future’,
I said I’d think about it.
He phone me on the Saturday evening after the Durham game and I told him that I probably would some time in the future.
He phoned me back again the following Monday to congratulate me on being appointed manager!.”

The club were never in any doubt they had made the right appointment, as long serving secretary George Watson explained:
“Once Brian was proposed at a board meeting no other name was ever mentioned never mind discussed. Brian has a lot of experience, he is intelligent and he knows the club, he knows the people at the club at all levels.”

Brian shows off the trophies he won as Player Manager of the Rams Head.

From not having even thought about management a few months earlier he was now Player/Manager of two teams at the same time!.
His Rams Head side stormed through the rounds of the FA Sunday Cup.
To other teams they were an unknown quantity but to those in the region it was no surprise that such a side reached the Final which was staged at Spennymoor. Their opponents were the favourites and two times winners, Newton Unity FC from Birmingham.
The Rams Head upset the favourites winning the trophy with a 2-0 victory.
It proved a fitting way to bring to an end his Sunday football career, as they had agreed he stepped down following the win to allow him to fully concentrate on the Blyth job.

Goal 1The club’s fifth ever Player/Manager got off to an absolutely flying start when he headed home in very first minute of his first game in charge.
He scored the opening two goals in a 6-2 hammering of Horden CW at Croft Park on Saturday 19th February.

While he had stated there would be no ‘panic changes’ he did bring in midfielder Gordon Catterall straight away:
“There will be no sweeping changes, I will assess the situation but the club will always be on the look out for new good players. Every effort will be made to supply the goods on the field and we just hope the excellent support we have experienced in the past will continue. Every endeavour will be made to improve the team and the way in which it plays”.

However, Brian did feel he needed to ‘change’ the dressing room. He thought his predecessor had ended up relying to too heavily on old pro’s:
“For a period some of his signings were poor, they seemed to see it as a jaunt. I had to change the atmosphere in the dressing room when I took over”.

One signing Brian did make came about due to a postponed league game in March.
Rather than having a free Saturday they arranged a friendly against a Sunday morning team from a pub owned by the chairman. 
Playing for the Golden Eagle was 20-year-old Steve ‘Jos’ Jones. 
Despite his slight frame and being up against Tommy Dixon and Ronnie Scott, Brian was so impressed he invited Jos to training.
After impressing with his speed and finishing ability Brian handed Jones his debut in the final game of the season at home to Willington on 30th April.
What a debut it was, he scored a perfect hat trick, left foot shot, right foot shot and header!.

Long serving midfielder Eddie Alder had combined playing with being assistant since Brian had taken over but declined the offer of the role permanently.
Having proved his fitness he wanted to concentrate on playing so a new assistant was needed.
Brian knew who he wanted, the man who had brought him to Croft Park 8 years earlier:
“When I was appointed Jack Marks had phoned to offer any help he could. I initially asked Eddie Alder if he would be coach but he turned it down because as he wanted to concentrate on playing. My next choice was Jack but he and Jimmy Turney had fallen out in the past”.

Having managed Ashington and North Shields since leaving Croft Park, Brian wasn’t sure if Jackie would accept the offer:
“I spoke to Jim Turney about it and he agreed, he paid Jackie a visit at work to finally smooth the waters following their fall out”.
Brian got his new assistant and they set about rebuilding the side:
“Jack had tremendous knowledge of local football which was invaluable”.

Jackie’s connections helped to set up deals for talented the Carney brothers and promising young players, Dave Varty and Ian Mutrie:
“Jack knew the Carney’s wanted to leave North Shields and spoke to them about our interest. He arranged for me to go to their home and sign them, Dave Varty and Ian Mutrie was a similar signings”.

However, the signing of Steve Carney proved to be problematic.
Despite having been at the club since the start of the season he wasn’t allowed to officially sign due to the Sportsmanship Penalty points ruling.
Steve had been sent off in a game which meant North Shields lost their Sportsmanship Penalty points. At the start of a season clubs were given a points total which diminished with each booking and red card they received. The more points the clubs kept meant more sponsorship money they received. The rule stated that a player involved in a club losing all their points must stay with that club for the following season.
However North Shields had told Steve they didn’t want him for the 77/78 campaign, meaning he couldn’t sign for another Northern League team.
Brian was raging: “I’m angry because he could have done a good job for us. Now he will be forced out of the league and may never come back. I can’t understand the justice of it all. These two rules want changing now. This system means the league is depriving a lad of football and another club of his services. It’s strange that Northern League players are being tied down more and more.”

The rebuilding meant players had to leave, it wasn’t a task Brian enjoyed.
He recalled one departure in particular was very difficult to handle:
“Telling Mick Morgan was awful because he was a personal friend. He was not the keeper he had been, his attitude was not in question but his better days were gone.
I still think about that one”.

Brian had a replacement in mind, Dave Clarke who was playing for Gateshead.
Their manager Ray Wilkie lived only a mile away from Brian’s home and it led to the most bizarre deal he ever made:
“I found out that Ray had signed a youth international goalkeeper who was coming north to study at Newcastle University.
Apparently he was to be first choice keeper and Dave his understudy. Clarkey was getting on and just wanted to play and I had been told he would be interested in joining us.
I contacted Ray to show my interest but he was reluctant to let him go for free. I tried all ways to get him, pleading: ‘he’s been a good servant, he just wants to play, I think you owe him!’.
Ray eventually softened and agreed but then said he wanted a £50 transfer fee.

At the next training night I told our secretary George Watson and he just handed me the £50 cash instantly.
On my way home I called at Ray’s home and knocked on the door, it was answered by his wife.
As she was asking who I was, I heard Ray shout ‘bring him in’.
His wife then led me upstairs to where Ray was in bed for the night and he signed the necessary papers lying in bed, and I handed him the £50”!.

The season got off to a great start, Brian scored in the opening day 3-0 win at Willington.
Three days later he scored again in the 3-1 home win over Crook Town.
Blyth won their first five games before losing 1-2 at Spennymoor on 10th September.
Despite the good start they had also been working on deals to bring in two players with vast football league experience.
Ron Guthrie had played for Sunderland in their famous 73 FA Cup Final win and had just returned from a brief spell in Petoria, South Africa.
Brian and Jackie were told that Ron was about to sign for Whitley Bay. After speaking to Jim Turney they made Ron an offer and beat Whitley Bay to his signature.
Likewise they had been made aware that Terry Johnson had returned to the North East after becoming homesick while playing for Brentford. Terry was still contracted and registered with them so was unable to play for another Football League club.
Jim Turney came to an arrangement with Brentford allowing Terry to play for Blyth.

Johnson scored on his debut in the 4-1 home win over Shildon, Brian scored twice that day. Fours days later they both repeated the feat in the FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round 3-0 win at Shildon.
 Brian scored the opening goal of that cup win, it was first of what would become 20 cup goals in a historic season.

Brian’s 11th and final goal of the 77/78 campaign came in the 3rd Qualifying Round. They won 4-1 at his former club Consett on 22nd October. He would make only two more appearances after that win. The form of Ian Mutrie allowed him to concentrate on managing.
Mutrie had missed the start of the season but had scored four times since getting into the side a fortnight earlier.
Mutrie would go on to score famous winners in FA Cup ties against Bishop Auckland and Burscough.

On Thursday 12th November the club finally got the approval to sign Steve Carney, but they had to ask the FA to intervene.
The FA overturned the ‘Sportsmanship penalty points rule’ and directed the Northern League’s Management Committee to allow him sign for another club.
Steve made an immediate impact scoring on his debut two days later as Blyth swept aside Ashington 5-0 at Portland Park.
Brian was over the moon with his new signing:
“Steve had a tremendous debut for us. He scored one and made two others. He is very confident, aggressive and has lots of ability. He is just 20 years old so has is a very good future ahead of him”.

Two League rules continually frustrated Brian in his time as a manager.
He believed they needed to change their old rules to move with the times, accusing the league of: 
“cutting it’s own throat”.
The controversial ‘Sportsmanship Penalty points’ and the ‘February First’ rules were two that particularly annoyed him:
“You can’t improve the league like this by restricting players freedom of movement between clubs”.
Two players were signed during the cup run but Brian had problems finalising both.
Having lost Mick Dagless to injury he tried to sign midfielder Keith Houghton from Gateshead. Keith’s work commitments as a Wallsend policeman had limited him to only 6 appearances. However he had played for the British Police team, strangely that give them selection preference over his club fixtures!.
Having agreed the deal he then had to negotiate with the British Police team officials to allow Keith to play in the Burscough FA Cup tie.
Brian also wanted to sign his former teammate Alan Shoulder but the striker was in dispute with Bishop Auckland over the ‘February First rule’.
The rule stated that any player who appeared for his club after February 1st was automatically re-registered to that club for the following season.
Bishops wouldn’t enter into discussions because they wanted to keep Alan as the rule stated. Alan wanted to leave so had not played that season in protest, playing only Sunday League to keep himself fit.
Having promised Brian in the summer he would join Blyth he held out until the move happened.
It took until Saturday 6th December before Brian announced:
“There will be no more signings now. The pool is just about complete. When I took over at the end of last season I realised changes had to take place.
We have been very fortunate to get a lot of good quality players and I’m well satisfied with the pool of players now”.

He had finally managed to strike a deal for Shoulder after agreeing to pay Bishops £200. Alan made an immediate impact scoring the winner on his debut against Durham City on Saturday 10th December 1977.

While Brian has no hesitation in naming Alan as the best signing he ever made, he feels naming his best XI would be impossible:
“I was fortunate to play alongside and manage some great players in my time in the game but to attempt to name a best XI is impossible. To have to leave out anyone would be unfair on the players, many of whom became great friends as well as team-mates”.  

Unsurprisingly the disputes with the League Management Committee continued.
They denied Alan the opportunity of playing in the 1-0 FA Cup 2nd Round win over Chesterfield by not sanctioning the move in time.
They had delayed it because of an incident that had happened three years earlier, despite him having made his league debut they ruled him out of the cup tie.
Brian explained:
“We had the deal done with Bishops and we tried to register him on December 2nd. However, because an illegal approach had been made to Alan back in 1974 which Bishops reported to the LMC they had to sanction his transfer. 
They didn’t meet to approve his transfer until December 8th and players needed to be registered at least 14 days before an FA Cup tie to qualify to play. We were the innocent party but were made to suffer for it due to bureaucracy”.

Jos Jones stabs home the winner against Chesterfield.

Alan heads home the winner against Enfield.

It was the first striker Brian signed who delivered the goods in the win over Chesterfield.
Jos Jones winner sent the club into the 3rd Round for the first time in 5 years.
Brian became the only ever Spartan to play for and manage the team in the FA Cup 3rd Round.
Alan Shoulder marked his delayed cup debut with a goal, his header in the 3rd Round win over Enfield put Blyth into the 4th Round for the first time ever.

Going into the 4th Round game at Stoke City Brian was optimistic as ever:
“Stoke are definitely beatable, we can do it. They have not been scoring a lot of goals and our defence aren’t conceding many. Dave Clarke has kept a clean sheet in our last 3 cup games and our attack will always get a goal or two.
We just have to get out there and enjoy every minute, we must make the most of it.
We won’t be going there with defeat on our mind.
 We are ready, we are not worried, just excited we have nothing to lose. In a sense we have got to Wembley as far as a Non League club is concerned”.

Brian and his players salute the travelling fans after beating Stoke City.

Despite having his team ready they were twice frustrated by the weather as heavy downpours waterlogged the Victoria Ground pitch.
The delay didn’t hamper the part-timers even thought they had to return to work in-between the postponements.
Blyth twice came from behind to pull off the club’s greatest ever giant killing.

The famous 3-2 win at Stoke saw the Spartans become the first Non League side to reach 5th Round for 29 years.
The media frenzy went into overdrive, any photo opportunity possible was seized upon.
Brian had organised the Ryton Comprehensive Pupil Golf Day for Tuesday 6th February, which due to the postponements ended up being the day after the Stoke game.
The weather was terrible on the day but it went ahead as planned:
“I couldn’t let the kids down but it was a horrible day, wet and windy. I thought when we got there they won’t want to play but the pupils loved it.”

Unknown to Brian the press had been trying to track him down for an interview, they had managed to speak to his wife who told them he was ‘playing golf’.
He recalls how they found him:
“I remember we were in the middle of the course, the only ones out on the course, when through the rain and mist I saw these two shadowy figures approaching us.
It was reporter and photographer, they introduced themselves and stated they had come for an interview!.
SC BS TJ 78They weren’t dressed for the weather, their clothes and dress shoes were in a right state having traipsed around the course looking for us. We chatted for about 20 minutes by which time the rained eased so they took a few photo’s and off they happily went. It was all rather bizarre”.

That night the team were given a victory celebration in the clubhouse with Brian and his two goal scorers from the Victoria Ground in high demand.

Brian’s management skill’s drew plenty of plaudits. Praised for his ability to make big decisions throughout the run and complimented for his dignified approach. He had refused to be drawn into a war of words when questioned about perceived belittling comments made by the Chesterfield boss Arthur Cox before the 2nd Round win.
With assistant Jackie Marks portrayed as the motivator, Brian’s ability to keep his players levelled headed in the media frenzy paid dividends.

He was his normal calm reassuring self in the build up to the tie at Wrexham:
“We have a side who believe in themselves, we are not in awe of the competition. 
Wrexham are standing in the way of us making history. That’s incentive enough for the players. All the attention and publicity is doing the team the power of good.”

A controversial 1-1 draw at Wrexham put the club into the Quarter Final draw.
However his side came within 60 seconds of winning albeit for the now infamous corner kick incident denying them glory.

As dignified as ever he was full of pride after the game:
“This has been the greatest moment of my football life in spite of the disputed end to the game. 
I am proud that we as a side have maintained a dignity and calmness that has typified Blyth Spartans throughout this run.”

When questioned by the national media about the incident he showed no bitterness, giving a philosophical view:
“It was never a corner. John Waterson clearly played the ball off Shinton and out of play. Clarkie dealt with the first corner, caught the second but then the ref made Wrexham take a third.
It’s unfortunate but that’s football, we have just got to live with it. The lads were disappointed. They held them for 89 minutes and then they come back with a goal like that.
However, we are still in there and no one is going to dampen our spirits”.

The press couldn’t get enough of the Spartans and club officials lapped up the attention.
The draw for the Quarter Finals was on the Monday lunchtime. Officials and players gathered at the ground for draw and the press wanted photographs of them reactions.
However, Brian had teaching commitments so couldn’t attend.
The press were desperate for him to be there. So much so they paid for a taxi to drive to Ryton Comprehensive and collect him.
It brought him to the ground just in time for the draw and subsequent photographs then drove him straight back to the Ryton school afterwards!.

The replay at St James’ went down in North East football folklore, but Brian had wanted it staged at Croft Park.
He felt they had benefited in earlier rounds from Croft Park’s compactness and partisan crowd so wanted to utilise that again.
However, a possible Stoke City replay had already been assigned to St James’ Park. Unsurprisingly council officials and Police again decided Croft Park’s limitations made it impossible to staged a Wrexham replay.
Brian wanted to make sure his players knew what to expect so approached Newcastle United officials.
He asked if they could have a look around the ground ahead of their big game.
United officials went one better, inviting them to the home game against Ipswich Town as guests of honour. The players and officials were given a tour of the ground and received a standing ovation when presented to the crowd.

Prior to kick off Brian made what he later described as the hardest decision in his footballing life, Dave Varty came into midfield for Eddie Alder:
“I told Eddie I was using the younger legs of David Varty and he accepted the decision although I knew he was disappointed. We were only allowed one sub then and I used Ian Mutrie as I felt he would be the best all round replacement on this day.
The decision tore me to bits, and even though Eddie was still essential to the side for his opinions and encouragement, to this day I don’t know if it was the right move.”

The now legendary cup run that had started with Brian scoring the opening goal on a sunny September afternoon in County Durham ended on a dark damp February night on Tyneside.
The 1-2 defeat was harsh on the part timers but to the 42,157 packed into St James’ the Spartans were the winners.

Brian couldn’t hide his feelings about the part the referee had played in the two games:
“After what happened in the first match the referee was determined to show he was not pro-Blyth but he went completely the other way. It was never a penalty. That sort of challenge happens dozens of times in a game. We should have had a penalty when John Roberts tipped the ball away in the first half.
But there is nothing we can do now, we have just got to accept it. 
I’m sick at the result for the lads but I’m proud for every player because of the way they played.
But that’s football and you have got to accept it. We have done a wonderful public relations job for football and we have shown many professional sides how to accept defeat with dignity”.

That night was one of the proudest moments of his managerial career, looking back he recalled:
“The sheer commitment from the players and wonderful team spirit was what made them so special. The players enjoyed all the publicity but we just treated every game the same, it was the club officials who rightly made the most over every opportunity”.

Following that defeat Brian rallied his troops and they embarked on a fourteen game unbeaten run that took them to League Cup and Senior Cup Finals.
Twenty four games were played until the end of the season and his side only lost once.
They went back to St James’ on Tuesday 2nd May for the Senior Cup Final, beating North Shields 2-1.
Two days later they hammered title rivals Spennymoor United 6-1 at Croft Park, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap and Spennymoor they claimed the Northern League title.
On 9th May they won a second trophy by hammering Willington 5-1 in the League Cup Final at North Shields.

11 weeks after the defeat to Wrexham, Brian was given the chance of revenge when they faced each other in the Debenhams Cup.
Goals from Terry Johnson & Dave Varty secured an excellent 2-1 win at the Racecourse Ground on the 13th May.
Two days later 5,333 packed into Croft Park to watch the 2nd Leg. Dave Varty scored again in the 1-1 draw that sealed a 3-2 aggregate win.
Of the many honours won by Brian and his team there was one that had never been given before or has since.
He became the only Blyth manager who’s team were given an open top bus parade through the town. It was staged to honour their efforts that season and thank the town for its support.

After a well-earned rest over the summer, the 78/79 campaign started without two keys players both of whom Brian had played with since first joining the club.
Eddie Alder & Ronnie Scott decided the epic 77/78 season was a fitting finale to their decade long Blyth careers, the club rightly awarded them a testimonial.
His team started the season with a six game unbeaten run, during which they only conceded three goals while scoring twenty four.
Brian’s first outing as a player came on 12th September, coming on as a sub in the 2-2 home draw with Evenwood. His first start came in the 1-1 home draw with Whitley Bay on 26th September.

A 1-0 FA Cup 4th Qualifying Round win at Billingham Synthonia set up a First Round tie at league side York City.
Spartans deservedly earned a replay drawing 1-1 thanks to a Terry Johnson penalty. The replay proved to be another Croft Park classic.
Alan Shoulder’s last minute penalty sent the tie to extra time.
They eventually lost 3-5 in what proved to be Brian’s last cup game in charge and also Alan Shoulder’s final game for the club.
Newcastle United had been monitoring Alan all season and made their move at the replay.

Blyth chairman Jim Turney was a personal friend of Jackie Milburn and he had helped set up the deal as Brian recalled:
“One night the phone rang and I answered to here a voice say, hello Brian ’it’s Jackie’.
I naturally assumed it was Jackie Marks, only to be amazed to find out it was actually Jackie Milburn.
He was ringing me to ask about Alan Shoulder, he wanted to know about him as a player and more importantly as a person”.

Brian was also approached straight after the York game by their manager Charlie Wright asking him to ‘name his price for Shoulder’, to which he replied:
“See that person with our chairman it’s Bill McGarry the Newcastle boss, Alan has just signed for them!”.
Alan moved to St James’ for £20,000 and made his United debut precisely one year to the day after making Spartans debut.

Having committed so much time and energy since being appointed, with a young family and demanding job he started to consider the impact it was having:
“Because of our success I was becoming an almost full time manager in a part time capacity. We were on the top of a wave but my role as husband/dad/teacher was having to come second. I realised that I was missing out and so was my family even though were always 100% behind me”.

In early December 78 he came to the conclusion that after 20 years in the game it was time to concentrate on his family:
“It seemed to hit me very quickly that it was time to move on.
The team, player wise, was in a very strong position and I knew Jack Marks could take my place without any upset”.

While some managers may have worried about breaking the news to their chairman he knew Jim Turney would understand:
“First of all, Jimmy was a great chairman and a very good friend.
He never ever put any pressure on me or the team. He enjoyed every game win or lose.
I was always grateful for and could rely on his commitment and total support.
I phoned Jimmy to tell him of my decision and reasons for it and he was great, we met and shook hands and that was it.”

His final game at Croft Park came on Saturday 16th December, naming himself in the starting XI for the first time in eleven weeks.
He marked his Croft Park farewell by scoring his record 242nd goal for the club in a 3-0 win.
It came against Ferryhill Athletic, who were the team he had scored his very first Blyth goal against some nine years earlier also at Croft Park!.
His final appearance fittingly came at the club where he had made his Northern League debut two decades earlier, Crook Town.

Reflecting on his decision, he recalled just how quickly he realised it was the correct one:
“I was amazed now just how much time was my own to spend with the family again.
Offers did come along after I left Blyth but I just wasn’t interested, it was Blyth or nothing for me. I never looked back or regretted that my football career was over”.

Brian’s Spartans career stats –
Appearances: 361
Goals: 242 – 171 league goals & 71 cup goals
Goals as player: 223
Goals as Player/Manager: 19

Honours as Player:
Northern League winner x3
Northumberland Senior Cup winner x3
Northern Counties Amateur Championship winner x2
Northumberland Senior Cup runner up x1
Rothmans Challenge Cup runner up x1

Record as Player/Manager –Manager
104 games in charge: W67 L16 D21 F241 A88

Honours as Player/Manager:
Debenhams Cup winner
Northumberland Senior Cup winner
Northern League Cup winner

team shot

While the 77/78 cup run brought fame to the club and town it was the culmination of a decade of unrivalled success, one in which Brian played an integral part in.
In the pantheon of Non League all-time greats Brian is up there with the best.

From playing in the great Blyth teams of the 70’s to managing one of the most famous Non League sides ever.
dd in being the club’s all time greatest goalscorer and you have a truly remarkable Spartan.

Brian Slane is rightly regarded as the greatest of all time.

  • Credits, Acknowledgements & Thank You’s:

First and foremost to Brian himself.
I cannot thank him enough for all the time and help he has given.
I had always wanted to write a ‘Green & While Cult Hero’ article about Brian so after 7 years of writing this blog a real ‘goal’ has been achieved.
It was an absolute honour and privilege to spend time with the great man during the course of researching and writing this.
His enthusiasm to document and record his career made it a pleasure to write and has helped make it such an in-depth piece.

Also a big thank you to Brian’s son Mark who initiated the original contact.

Thanks must also go out to –

Philip Reay, South Shields FC Secretary who provided superb info and images of Brian’s time at South Shields.

Terry Jackson, Bishop Auckland FC Director who provided info on Brian’s season at Bishops.

Neil Harvey who supplied great info on the Northern Counties Amateur Championship.

Alan Golightly aka OldTownFan @old_town who kindly provided a rare image used.

Credits –

The late Ken Sproat‘s superb book ‘The History of Blyth Spartans’ was as ever an important source of information.

The Bishops‘ Facebook page provided 2 excellent images of Bishop Auckland teams Brian’s time at the club.

Consett AFC‘s website provided information and images on Brian’s time at the club.

Blyth Library’s excellent archive facility of the old ‘Blyth News’ papers once again proved a valuable source of information.

The following excellent websites provided important info and images:

An absolutely great forum with some superbly knowledgable and helpful Non League football followers.

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