Many former players have been popular but few reach the iconic status of becoming cult heroes with the supporters.
These players will always be remembered for their efforts & commitment while playing for the club.
The first in the series features the one and only…..
John ‘Eddie’ Alder was a small, wiry & permanently bald stalwart of Blyth’s midfield for 12 years from 1966 to 1978.
Eddie Alder was originally a left winger when signed by Jimmy Turney from Bedlington Mechanics.
He was part of the squad which gradually got a foothold in a strong Northern League. In March 1970 Blyth beat reigning Champions Evenwood 4-0 at Croft Park and that proved to be the turning point for the success in League, F.A. Amateur Cup and ultimately the F.A. Cup during Alder’s command in midfield. With team mates like John Evans, Ronnie Scott and Ronnie Phillipson around him Alders contribution to the Spartan cause cannot be measured.
Others such as the skilful Mick Dagless may have caught the eyes with spectacular goals, but Alder’s mobility tenacity and sheer bloody hard work along with two good feet and a good football brain quite often just simply wore his opponents down, but that’s not to say he wasn’t a skilful player, his control & passing were excellent.
Alder got stuck in back in the days when you were allowed to tackle but was the ultimate gentleman on & off the field.
Eddie could be accused of trying to do too much sometimes taking corners, free kicks & throw-in’s but that was Eddie Alder he was a winner and wanted to do anything possible to make that happen. Even on a rare ‘off’ day he give his all and never hid it just wasn’t in his nature. Consistency and great stamina were other trademarks although Eddie suffered quite a few problems with his knees and briefly retired in 1975 before coming back to play on for another 3 years.
Club’s from outside the area that Blyth played in either the Amateur or F.A. Cup always thought Eddie was an ex-pro assuming he was 10 years older than he actually was no-doubt based on his lack of hair.
In the 70’s the England Non League team was managed by Charlie Hughes, (who eventually climbed the FA ladder extolling the virtues of the long ball game). Hughes always packed the squad with players from teams around the London & Home Counties areas. Eddie managed to squeeze his way into an FA XI squad for a game against The Combined Services to be played at Portsmouth. Eddie took time off work and was driven there and back by club Chairman Jim Turney only to be ignored by Hughes and left on the bench for the entire game, the countries loss.
Two stories involving Alder perhaps best illustrate what opponents thought of him:
- In the early 70’s just after the old wooden main stand had burnt down, South bank came to Croft Park for a midweek match the always a dogged outfit they featured a midfielder called Terry Harrison who had just returned from trials at Chelsea.
He was instructed by their manager to ‘stick with Alder everywhere’ an exhausted Harrison afterwards at the post match drinks in the Mason’s Arms marvelled at his opponents tireless display in Blyth’s 2-0 victory gasping:
“I’ve only had 2 kicks all-night and both were from Alder”.
- Hendon were F.A. Amateur Cup holders and came north for a 2nd Round tie in January 1973. They had the backbone of the England team with keeper Swannell, captain Deadman and beanpole striker Tony Bass in the side for an epic 1-1 at Croft Park.
In the replay a week later Alder was a marked man and either kept the 2 of his markers out of the game when not in possession and when on the ball simply laid it off quickly every time and had them chasing shadows all game in one of the team’s best displays as an Allan Young header four minutes from time claimed a superb victory.
Hendon proceeded in offering Alder, a painter & sign writer by trade a job and house if he would move south and sign for them!.
Alder’s time at Croft Park was a highly successful one with a flood of medals and some epic Cup ties:
- 3 Northern League titles and was also a runner up 3 times.
- Northumberland Senior Cup Winner 3 times.
- An F.A. Amateur Cup Semi Final appearance.
And of course there was the fabled F.A. Cup run in 1978 in which Eddie played a key role thanks to the persuasive powers of the Spartan’s management team: “I’d finished playing for Blyth and had a season out of the game then Brian Slane took over and Jackie Marks asked me to go back so I started training again and was back in the team.” Alder believes the cup success was a result of having an experienced squad that would not get overawed by the occasion: “We had the right players at the right time and most of us had played in big games in the past. In our previous cup runs some of the younger players were so nervous they were frightened to walk on the pitch but that wasn’t the case in that season.”
Blyth’s cup exploits would often disrupt his day job as a painter and decorator.
Eddie remembers the Stoke game in particular for the logistics involved, which made victory that little bit sweeter: “ It had been postponed twice after we had had made the journey down there so we had to come back up, go to work and prepare all over again. It was the best team performance I’d been involved in. When they were 2-1 up you could tell they thought it was all over.”
A famous fight-back against a Stoke team containing the likes of Garth Crooks and Howard Kendal was a career high for Eddie: “When we got the second and third goals to win the game 3-2 they didn’t know what had hit them. It was a tremendous achievement for everyone involved.”
The veteran midfield maestro didn’t underestimate the role the Spartan’s fanatical supporters played during that cup run:
“To see the fans come down three times for the Stoke game in such big numbers was a massive lift for the lads. At Wrexham as well and in the replay at St James Park there was an unbelievable atmosphere.”
After the Wrexham Cup game at St James Park, Newcastle invited the players back for a lap of honour prior to the next home game:
Brian Slane, Dave Clarke, Colin Addison, Keith Houghton, Eddie, Mick Dagless (partially hidden) Terry Johnson, JohnWaterson & Tommy Dixon enter the pitch to be salute dby the crowd.
Eddie was also part of a Blyth side that had been involved in some epic Cup ties prior to 1978. In 1971/72 he was in the side that won 1-0 at Crewe in the 1st Round, and then beat Stockport 1-0 in the 2nd Round before losing in the 3rd Round Replay at Reading having held them to a 2-2 draw at Croft Park.
The following season 1972/73 he in the side that reached the 2nd Round before losing to Grimsby Town after a replay.
In October 1979 Eddie Alder & his team mate the late great Ronnie Scott received their testimonial game cheques at a ceremony at the Spartans’ Social Club.
With 625 games for the club Eddie has appeared more times than anyone else in Spartans colours. It is an achievement he is very proud of:
“To play that number of times for a famous non-league club like Blyth is special.
I didn’t realise just how many games I’d played but I suppose I spent nearly my whole career at Blyth.”
Eddie left Blyth after the 77-78 season and had a brief spell at Bedlington Terriers before retiring from the game.
Nowadays he spends much of his time on the golf course or looking after his grandchildren. The Spartans result is the first one he looks out for on a Saturday afternoon and he still takes an interest in the modern game: “I watch quite a lot of the premier league games on the t.v. and the game has changed a lot since I played. Back then you had a lot of players who would put their foot on the ball and dictate a game. I remember Nobby Stiles doing that at Blyth when we played Preston in the cup. Now you have players with pace who can knock a ball past an opponent and be away from them. When I played players put more thought in to it bit, that’s why someone like Paul Scholes stands out so much in the game.”
A distinctive figure on the field Eddie Alder was rightly idolised by the fans for his passion, effort & total commitment for the club.
GU, AD & KT.