Blyth Spartans AFC’s proud record of never having been relegated in its 113 years was finally brought to an end on Saturday 9th June when a meeting brought to an end to our time in a conference!
Having played in several leagues during those 113 years, such as the Northumberland League, North Eastern League, Midland League, Northern Counties League, Northern League, Northern Premier League First Division & Premier and ultimately the Conference North the club had never been relegated despite several leagues folding or reforming to create new set ups the famous Blyth Spartans had never finished in a league place that resulted in them being relegated from a league, all that was about to change.
The Conference League AGM confirmed our relegation, the bad news filtered out via a club official at the AGM:
“the proposed list of BSBN teams remains the same and we are in the Evo Stick next season”.
It came only weeks after the club had submitted an application to join the Northern Premier League (now know as the Evo Stick Premier), and the club’s attendance at the NPL AGM will purely dot the i’s and cross the t’s on our return to the league when the league.
Our place within the relegation positions had been confirmed on Saturday 7th April with a 2-3 home defeat by play off hopefuls Gainsborough Trinity, that a crowd of only 392 saw the clubs 19th defeat of the season told the story of a disastrous season.
Blyth had spent 6 seasons in the Conference North reaching the clubs highest placing in the pyramid thanks to a Unibond Premier League title win in 2005/2006. The club was on a high off the back of that storming title success and entered the new league full of hope & expectation.
The first season went well with Blyth topping the table after a 4-1 home victory over Farsley Celtic in front of a crowd of 631, as the season progressed Blyth held their own and stayed in touch with the leaders with a play off place a possibility. However despite a last day crowd of 836 witnessing a superb 3-1 victory over play off placed Hinckley United it wasn’t enough as the club finished in a superb 7th place with 66 points missing the last play off place by 2 points.
2006/2007 was to prove Blyth’s highest finish in the Conference North as the following season a relegation battle ensued with a final finish of 18th with 46 points, 7 clear of the 3rd and last relegation spot.
However with Boston United & Nuneaton Borough being demoted it turned out that only the bottom club was actually relegated with Hucknall Town & Vauxhall Motors being reprieved.
That proved to be the story of life in the Conference North, the Non League game was as ever mirroring the full time game, clubs with serious financial back were flexing their muscle and moving through the leagues chasing the ultimate goal of reaching the Football League, more and more clubs were turning full time.
However many clubs were struggling financially, be it for various reasons such as not being no longer able to finance the level they played at (Redditch 2010) or the money troubles causing the to fold and reform as a new club (Nuneaton Borough 2008) or they struggled to keep their grounds up to the required standard and were thrown out of league (Kings Lynn 2008) it turned out that finishing in the bottom 3 was not always guaranteed to see you relegated.
It became such a lottery that fans of Conference North club’s now amusingly renamed the end of season AGM as the ‘AGM Cup’. At the end of the season the bottom 3 of the North & South are pooled together to form a listing of teams to be reprieved on the points per game ratio, 3rd bottom of both North & South was seen now seen as guaranteed safety and not relegation.
It was always thought by Blyth fans that it was almost impossible to get relegated from the league, believing you had to be financially in trouble and get demoted or a very poor team and deservedly get relegated because you just weren’t good enough and Blyth Spartans AFC were neither.
It becoming almost comical that season after season clubs would be reprieved from relegation back to the Northern Premier League, Vauxhall, Redditch & Hyde all been reprieved twice.
In Blyth’s 6 season’s in the Conference North only once (2006/2007) have the bottom 3 all been relegated, in fact in the league’s 8 season’s only twice have the bottom 3 have been relegated, 2005-06 & 2006-07. And in 2008/09 all 3 were reprieved!.
2011-2012 – Blyth Spartans & Eastwood Town relegated –
2010-2011 – Stafford Rangers & Redditch United relegated –
2009-2010 – Northwhich Victoria demoted no one relegated –
Redditch United, Vauxhall Motors & Harrogate Town all reprieved
2008-2009 – Burscough & Hucknall relegated –
Hyde reprieved as Kings Lynn demoted
2007/2008 – Leigh Genesis relegated –
Vauxhall & Hucknall Town reprieved because Boston United & Nuneaton Borough demoted.
2006-2007 – Scarborough, Worksop & Lancaster relegated.
2006-2006 – Hednesford Town relegated –
Redditch & Leigh reprieved
2005-2006 – Runcorn, Ashton & BPA relegated.
So as Blyth’s 2011-2012 season deteriorated from early promise into a clear relegation battle, it was always though that the club would gain enough points to be one of the ‘AGM Cup’ winners, especially with rumours abound of other clubs struggling and league new boys Bishops Stortford being unhappy at their place in the north and wanting a return to the South.
However there was a gallows humour feeling among supporters that the one time the club did finish in the bottom 3 there would be no reprieve forthcoming coming!.
A new manager finally brought a change of fortunes and some form, winning 3 straight games but it did little to dampen worries as the clubs above Blyth also found form winning game leaving the club further a drift, the safety of 3rd bottom was disappearing into the distance.
Worryingly it became clear that Blyth’s record didn’t stand up against the bottom 3 clubs in the Conference South, it was becoming a stark reality they the current Blyth Spartans AFC team were poor enough to actually be relegated on their playing record.
Some supporters always thought the board wouldn’t allow it to happen and would up the playing budget to bring in players to boost survival chances as they had in 2007/2008 when after dropping to the bottom of the league while on another epic run to the 3rd Round of the FA Cup. It did happen players were brought in on loan but ultimately it was too little too late, the damage had been done with crucial defeats by the teams directly above us.
So on Saturday 9th June the ‘AGM Cup’ handed out its annual reprieves and despite faint hopes that it could yet still save us there was no last gasp reprieve, so Blyth Spartans were relegated from the Conference North back to the Northern Premier League, becoming the 17th club to lose its place in the league.
However, one of many worries that relegation brings is that only 1 club relegated from the Conference North has ever won promotion back into the league.
Bradford Park Avenue who were in fact the 1st team ever relegated from the league in 2006 and won the Evo Stick Premier Play Off Final last season.
*(2 demoted clubs Boston & Nuneaton have returned).
Weather Blyth become only the 2nd relegated team to win promotion back and indeed the 1st club ever to bounce straight back only time will tell.
Blyth’s Conference North record:
- Played 242
- Won 81 (52 at home & 29 away),
- Lost 109 (50 at home & 59 away),
- Drew 52 (32 at home & 20 away)
- Scored 338 goals (191 at home & 147 away
- Conceded 379 (207 at home & 172 away)
- Total Points won 301 – 188 at home & 113 away
- 1st CN goal: Alex Gildea at Redditch United 12/08/2006 Away won 2-0
- Last CN Goal: Joe Kendrick v Nuneaton Town 28/04/2012
- 1st CN Hat Trick: Scott Bell v Farsley Celtic 28/08/012 home won 4-1
- Club have had 4 managers in the 6 seasons: Harry Dunn, Mick Tait, Steve Cuggy & Tommy Cassidy.
- A total of 131 different players have played for Blyth in the Conference North:
Adie Webster, Andrew Johnson, Aaron Wilford, Adam Bartlett, Adam Forster,
Adam Gladwin, Adam Robinson, Alan White, Alex Francis, Alex Gildea, Alex White, Andrew Laidllaw, Andrew Thompson, Andrew Wright, Andy Appleby, Andy Leeson,
Andy Ferrell, Anth Lowther, Anthony Hume, Anthony Peacock, Ben Christensen,
Callum Little, Callum Morris, Calvin Smith, Carl Jones, Chris Emms, Chris McCabe,
Chris Swailes, Christian Graham, Craig Price, Craig Turns, Dale Crawford, Damon Mullen, Dan Lowson, Daniel Robinson, Danny Groves, Darren Craddock, Darren Timmons,
Dave Coulson, David Knight, Dylan Purvis, Foli Sherkoni, Gareth Powell, Gareth Williams, Gary Brown, Ged Dalton, Glen Taylor, Graeme Armstrong, Graham Fenton, Greg Pearson, Guy Bates, Ian Graham, Jack Norton, Jake Cunningham, James Marwood, Jamie Mole, Jamie Poole, Jason Bradley, Jim Platten, Joe Kendrick, John Alexander, John Brackstone, Jordan Mellish, Joseph Weir, Josh Gillies, Josh Gray, Karl Richards, Kenny Boyle,
Lee Mason, Liam Atkin, Liam Gildea, Liam O’Mahoney, Marc Walton, Mark Bell,
Mark Doninger, Mark Evans, Mark Gillespie, Martin Houlahan, Martin Smith,
Matt Hunter, Matthew Moffat, Matty Crook, Max Harrop, Max Johnson,
Michael Coulthard, Michael Hedley, Michael Maidens, Michael Pearson, Michael Tait, Neal Hooks, Nick Deverdics, Paul Brayson, Paul Catto, Paul Farman, Paul Milner,
Paul Watson, Peter Snowden, Phil Bannister, Phil Bell, Phil Cave, Phil Turnbull,
Richard Addison, Richard Follett, Richard Foster, Richard Hodgson, Richard Logan, Richard Offiong, Richard Pell, Richie Slaughter, Rikki Baines, Robbie Dale, Robert Birdsall, Sam Greivson, Sam Hogdson, Scott Bell, Sebastien Anzevui, Shaun Reay, Shaun Utterson, Shaun Vipond, Simon Todd, Stephen Turnbull, Steve Birks, Steve Harrison,
Steven Foster, Steven Shaw, Stuart Banks, Tom Richardson, Tony Shandran,
Tony Stephenson, Wayne Buchanan, Wayne Phillips