Always a much sort after job the Croft Park ‘hot-seat’ has surprisingly seen only 42 occupants in the clubs 121 year history.
The club’s longest-serving manager has been Jim Turney, taken charge in April 1957 he served for 10 years. Jim would go on to complete a unique hat trick serving the club with great distinction as a player a manager and then Chairman, he is the only person to serve the club in those 3 roles.
The honour of the shortest spell as manager goes to Alan Shoulder who quit the post in October 1998 after only 14 games in charge!.
He was 1 of 5 players who featured in the famous 1977/78 FA Cup run that went on to have periods of varying lengths in charge of the club;
Mick Dagless, Dave Clarke, Tommy Dixon, Alan Shoulder & Steve Carney.
23 managers have either played for the club or acted as Player Manager, Joe Wilson was the 1st Player Manager in 1948.
5 managers have returned for 2nd spells in charge;
Mark Lawton, Jackie Marks, Peter Feenan, Harry Dunn and Mick Tait.
The average ‘life span’ of a Blyth manager works out at just over 2 years in charge!.
With the club coming into existence in 1899 the first officially titled manager wasn’t appointed until 1933, before that the team had been selected by the committee.
Previous to the 1933 appointment the club had employed ‘Trainers’.
Their duties were to train & coach the players and make recommendations to the committee who would then select the team for each game.
The first officially title manager was former England Amateur International Ernie Hoffman.
Appointed in May 1933, the Yorkshireman who was born to German parents was initially employed as club Secretary. He combined the two roles after being appointed team manager.
His appointment didn’t go down well with town’s folk due to him not living in the town. Hoffman’s 4 years in charge were highly successful culminating in the historic North Eastern League title in 1935/36. His side scored 104 goals in 38 games becoming only the second non Reserve team to win the league in the 26 years it had been running. Hoffman resigned in May 1937 to take up the role of club secretary at Birmingham City.
His replacement was Billy Hogg, who like Hoffman had combined the roles of manager & secretary at Ashington FC. His reign only lasted until December 1938 when his policy of experienced signings proved too costly, poor results and low crowds didn’t help his cause.
To everyone’s approval Hogg’s replacement was a Blyth lad, living in the avenue’s Mark Lawton was the first Blyth born manager of the club as well as the first former player to manage the club.
His family had a long standing connections with the club, his uncle Billy Lawton had played for the club and was Ernie Hoffman’s right hand man and Hilda Lawton played for the famous Blyth Spartans Munitionettes.
Lawton initially got off to a poor start but turned things around in the second half of the season, however his 2nd season was brought to an abrupt end with the outbreak of World War I.
- Mark ‘Marky’ Lawton (1896-1981) was born in Phoenix Row Newsham and joined the Northumberland Fusiliers in 1914.
He was transferred to the King’s Liverpool Regiment at some point and received two ‘Blighty’ wounds at Arras and Passchendaele.
A ‘Blighty’ was a wound bad enough for a soldier to be sent back to England during the war, Mark was patched up and sent back to the front both times.
Back home he was a miner at Crofton Pit but eventually got a job at the Blyth Labour Exchange.
He married Barbara Allon (the Allons had a hat shop in Blyth) and they had three children: Dorothy (who married Cdr John Davis the commander of Blyth Submarine base in WW2), Ken Lawton (1924-2013) and Alan who is still alive.
The club shut up shop during the war and when the club started up again Lawton was asked reprise his role as the club looked to get back to where they had been.
Lawton had been aided by County Durham born player/coach Joe Wilson. In April 1948 the former Brentford, Reading & Barnsley centre half replaced Lawton and became the clubs first ever Player/Manager.
However by April 1950 the club was experiencing financial worries and could no longer justify employing Wilson so ‘for the foreseeable future the board would select the team’.
After 3 good years for the club things had improved and a new manager was appointed in the summer of 1953.
It was a rather high-profile appointment, another Player/Manager came in the form of former Middlesbrough centre half Tom Blenkinsopp.
Born 13th May 1920 in Bishop Auckland, Blenkinsopp started off playing for West Auckland before playing for Grimsby Town, Middlesborough & Barnsley. Being paid £8 per week he was even bought a house in Kimberley Terrace by the Supporters club!. Blenkinsopp used his contacts and brought in expensive former League players, however it was a rather disastrous appointment and the club made a heavy loss on the season leaving the club in debt so he was given a month’s notice to quit his home and duly sacked.
Yet again the board took over the running of the team until they finally managed to appoint former Lincoln City player Dougie Wright as Player Manager in December 1954 after drawn out negotiations.
Blyth officials had been in talks to appoint the former Newcastle United player for over a month before Lincoln finally agreed to release Wright who had looked to retire from professional football due to injury. Wright eventually stopped playing and concentrated on managing the side, he was in the charge until the end of the 1956/1957 season the club had announced in the February that Wright’s contract wouldn’t be extended at the end of the season.
- Had it not been for the fact that he was wounded in the leg at Dunkirk during the Second World War, it was more than likely Dougie Wright would spent the majority of his post-war career in the top flight of English football.
He proved many wrong that the injury he suffered would prevent him from playing and battled on to forge a career in the game making 336 appearances for 3 clubs despite the events of Dunkirk. An England international at the age of 21, winning one cap in friendly against Norway in November 1938 playing along with the likes of Stanley Matthews, Tommy Lawton and Stan Cullis.
Born on 29/04/1917 in Rochford, Southend John Douglas Wright played for Chelmsford City before joining his who home town team in 1936. After 2 years making a name for himself as a wing half he joined Newcastle United in 1938 for £3,250, the injury he suffered at Dunkirk effected his career at St James Park but Jackie Milburn rated him as “the best half back he played with in a Newcastle shirt!”.
In 1947 Lincoln City boss Bill Anderson paid £650 for Dougie, it turned out to be an inspirational signing as he captained the Imps from his second game – against Chesterfield at Sincil Bank on Christmas Day 1948 – until his departure 245 League and Cup games later in December 1954.
An ever-present in the Imps’ Division Three North championship winning campaign of 1951/52 Doug was in his 38th year when he parted company with the Imps by mutual consent; he had never been booked throughout his City career and received a benefit of £750 when he left to join the Spartans.
After he retired from playing he worked at Blyth Power Station, Dougie Wright died in December 1992 at the age of 75.
April 1957 saw Jim Turney appointed, he had come to the end of a long-playing career with the club and was seen as highly ambitious. After 10 years in the hot seat that had seen the club play in 4 different leagues Turney stepped down as manager and within a year became the Chairman and as they say ‘the rest is history’.
Turney’s replacement was former Whitley Bay defender Tony Knox, Knox had a successful career for Hendon & Wycombe Wanderers and represented England at Amateur level before returning to play for his home town club in 1965 when he become a PE teacher in Newcastle.
He played 2 seasons for Bay and scored the penalty in their Amateur Cup Semi Final 1-2 defeat to his old club Hendon at Roker Park in 1966. The full back gained more International & FA XI honours while playing for Whitley before he became Blyth’s Player/Manager in 1967. He only lasted 6 months resigning immediately after a 6-0 FA Amateur Cup win at Hearts of Liddlesdale in October citing family & work commitments, he returned to play for Whitley Bay before retiring at the end of the 69/70 season, he also had a brief spell as Bay manager in the 70’s.
Billy Fenwick took temporary charge until March before another
former player, Peter Flaherty took over as caretaker boss until the end of the season, once the campaign ended Jim Turney set about appointing Jackie Marks. Having been over looked in preference to Knox, Turney had to personally go and visit Marks at his place of work to tempt him to Croft Park. Jackie Marks reign as manager lasted 2 years before he fell out with Jim Turney after a ‘discussion’ over a pay rise and he announced he would be leaving at the end of the
season to join Tow Law.
Former Bristol City coach Allan Jones was appointed, and it was announced that the PE teacher would ‘work with’ the Chairman!.
Jones methods suited the board and for 2 years it worked well the club reached the FA Cup 3rd Round for the 1st time ever beating League side Crewe & Stockport before losing to reading after a draw at Croft Park.
In April 1972 Jones confirmed he would take up the role as full-time manager at Fourth Division Darlington.
*Allan only lasted 6 months at Feethams and then managed Bermuda National team before moving to New Zealand in 1979 to managed their national side for 4 years and even he managed the New Zealand Womens team at the Olympics.
The board acted quickly in appointing highly experienced Northern League manager Billy Bell, he had won the title with Evenwood & Spennymoor in previous seasons.
Bell achieved the aim and sealed his 4th title in 4 years with 3 different teams, however despite bringing the club their 1st ever Northern League title his reign was over before the season ended after disagreements with the board, Bell claimed promises made pre season had not been meet, claims the board refuted.
Eddie Alder & Billy Fenwick were put in charge for the League Cup Final victory over Spennymoor to seal the clubs 1st ever Northern League Cup.
A board meeting unanimously agreed that Alder & Fenwick should be
appointed for the coming 73/74 season. After a season in which Blyth lost out on the NL title when a Play Off game was needed to separate the Spartans and Spennymoor, the board felt a change was needed.
In June 36-year-old former South Shields manager Alan O’Neill was appointed.
The former Sunderland player proved great appointment, he achieved success with a free-flowing style of football winning the Northern League without losing a single game!.
Despite 2 successful seasons, winning back to back titles, in February 1977 have had a somewhat strained relationship with sections of the Croft Park crowd, O’Neill resigned.
The club wasn’t short of applicants for the vacant job but the appointment was to be a historic one.
Brian Slane was appointed Player/Manager, he in brought Eddie Alder back to the club as his player/ coach.
Alder proved he was fit enough to play every week so come the start of 77/78 Slane needed a new coach and appointed the man who had signed him for Blyth,
The 1977/78 season is possibly the most famous in the club’s long history but come December 1978 Slane had announced he would be stepping down to spend more time with his family and concentrate on his teaching career.
Continuity saw Jackie Marks return to the hot seat for his 2nd spell, Marks reigned for 3 more highly successful seasons before discussions in May 1981 with Jim Turney and the board led to him leaving the job.
In June 1981 former player Bob Elwell was appointed, he had extensive
management experience with like of Bishop Auckland, Spennymoor & North Shields. After landing the clubs 3rd successive title Elwell was harshly sacked in November 1982 following what the board decided was an unacceptable FA Cup defeat at Alliance Premier League side Northwich Victoria. Despite landed a trophy treble, winning the league, League Cup and JR Cleator Cup all in his 1st season such was the standards demanded losing to an established Alliance Premier side was seen as unacceptable!.
His replacement was former Everton, Birmingham City & Newcastle winger John Connolly who had been playing in the Alliance Premier League with Gateshead. Connolly brought the 4th successive NL title to the Croft Park trophy cabinet with an attacking brand of football that also saw the club reach the Quarter Finals of the FA Trophy. Within a year he decided he wanted to return to a higher level of the game and went back to play for Gateshead. He played another year before returning to management with Whitley Bay in 1984.
Former Croft Park favourite Mick Dagless, who had been assistant to Connolly, was appointed. He carried on the success landing a record 5th successive NL title.
However there was the now customary upheaval and the club ended the 1983/84 campaign losing services of yet another manager, the 5 successive league titles had been won by 4 different managers !.
The board turned to another former player when they appointed
Peter Feenan. He had great success as manager of Blue Star & Brandon United but he wasn’t able to retain the title as the Spartans finished runners-up in 1984/85 to Bishop Auckland.
In October 1985 the boards actions once again left the supporters stunned. The hugely popular Feenan was sensationally sacked just before the kick off an FA Cup tie following a row over team selection, making it 5 managers in 5 years.
Finally some stability was achieved with the appointment of former Everton & Newcastle United forward Jim Pearson, however it took some rare patience from the board to see the club return to its Northern League dominance. A 4th place finish wasn’t what either party had anticipated but the patience paid dividends in 86/87. Pearson’s rebuilt side swept to a 9th title some 14 points clear of the runners-up, he then repeated the feat making it back to back titles in 87/88.
Despite the success Pearson joined the ever-growing list to fall foul of
Chairman Jim Turney being sacked shortly before the beginning of the 88/89 campaign. In August Dave Clarke was appointed the new manager, he brought former striker Geoff Hart in as his No.2.
Clarke’s reign was shorted lived and the legendary goalkeeper resigned in November after poor run of results. His replacement was another ’78 Cup run legend Tommy Dixon, he brought in another former Spartans player Ronnie Walton as his assistant.
Dixon’s near 2 year reign saw the club struggle, a 9th place finish put pressure on Dixon. He struggled to attract the quality of player he wanted and key players left to join clubs playing at a higher level in the pyramid.
Dixon eventually quit in March 1990 with Steve Carney appointed caretaker to see out the season.
Ronnie Walton was the manager appointed, with the club’s fortunes ailing he had to work with an ever decreasing budget but his emphasis on youth worked as the club came through some tough times. In his first full season he achieved a 3rd place finish however come February 1992 he felt he could no longer continue and left the club.
Midfielder Nigel Walker was appointed as caretaker, however in a typical Blyth managerial twist Walton returned to his post within a month of leaving!.
In February 1993 Ronnie left the job for good when he moved away from the North East for business. Walton was in charge during some difficult times at the club as financial worries mounted. He showed his calibre as a manager developing a good mix of youth & experience and was rewarded with 3 trophies in 1 season; Northumberland Senior Cup, Northern League Cup and the JR Cleator Cup a feat no manager had achieved since the early 80’s.
- Born on 12th October 1945 in Plymouth, Ronnie started his career as an apprentice with Rotherham United. Without making an appearance he joined Northampton for 1964/65 season but after only 1 game that season he joined Crewe, playing only twice he joined Carlisle until end of the campaign.
In Summer of 66 he signed for Aldershot where he would goon to make 193 appearances in next 6 seasons scoring 41 goals.
He then signed for Cambridge United in 1971 and was a vital apart of their 72/73 4th Division promotion side, scoring twice in the win over Mansfield that clinched promotion.
Shots manager Tom MacAnearney took him back to the Recreation Ground and he would go on to play another 117 times taking into the top 10 of the clubs all time appearances with 310 in total and his 55 goals put him in their top 10 all time goal scorers. At the end of the 1976/77 season he left to join Southern Premier League club Dartford, after 2 season’s he relocated to the North East to open a car parts accessory business and was snapped up by Spartans manager Brian Slane.
Ronnie made his debut in a pre season friendly at Croft Park against Dutch 2nd Division side Den Bosch, Blyth ran out comfortable 4-1 winners on the night and Slane describe the signing of the impressive Walton as a “real discovery”.
*It was also the game when Newcastle United & West Ham scouted Alan Shoulder, Magpies boss Bill McGarry was clearly impressed by the hat trick scorer and Alan moved to St James Park for £10,000 months later.
Running his car accessory business was taking up more time and with a niggling knee injury Ronnie almost stopped playing in November 1978 but he carried on making the odd appearance before calling it time in March 1979. By the time he had returned to Croft Park as Tommy Dixon’s assistant in 1988 he had added one of Tyneside’s 1st KFC franchises to his business empire.
Peter Feenan made a return to the club some 7 years after being controversially sacked, it was a historic one for the club as he became the clubs 18th and last Northern League manager. The club made it known they would accept the place in the Northern Premier League on offer to the league winners.
Feenan’s side lead the table until the turn of the year before losing top spot to eventual champions Durham City, Peter resigned in the March after a run of 1 win in 7 games dealt a fatal blow to the club’s hope of the title and subsequent promotion to the NPL.
Dave Robertson took charge as Caretaker and guided the club to the Northern League Cup Final (which they lost 0-2 to Northallerton) however by then there had been a huge twist in the automatic promotion place. It had become clear that champions Durham City’s new ground was not going to be ready on time and the NPL offered the promotion to the runners-up; Blyth Spartans.
The appointment of former midfielder Harry Dunn, who had been manager of NPL Bishop Auckland, was an ideal and popular choice for the club’s long-awaited venture into the pyramid. The club’s fortunes were on the up and Harry Dunn gained promotion as First Division Champions at the first attempt, however just when everything appeared to be going well Chairman Jim Telford proved he was just as ruthless as his predecessor. With 3 wins & 3 defeats in the first 6 games in the Premier Division Harry Dunn was sacked amid rumours of disagreements over playing certain players against the Chairman’s strict instructions.
Coach Tony Lowery took over from his former boss and for the 1st and only time in the club’s history a Director of Football was appointed. Former Manchester United & Newcastle United midfielder David McCreery was brought in to work with Lowery.
The new management team guided the club to its first FA Cup victory over a League club since the 1978 win over Stoke City when they beat Bury 2-0 at Gigg Lane however Chairman Jim Telford once again proved he was the boss. Entering the dressing room during the after match celebrations he introduced the new manager.
Peter Harrison was announced as the new manager with the intention of
Lowery being his coach and staying McCreery as a ‘consultant’!.
Needless to say it didn’t work out and within weeks Lowery left to join Bedlington after McCreery had taken a coaching job in America, Harrison brought in his own man as No.2 with his former Gateshead teammate Derek Bell coming to Croft Park as Player/Assistant.
After initial success guiding the club to an excellent 6th place finish in 95/96 his second season didn’t go to plan despite a handsome playing budget and after 1 win in 10 games he handed in his resignation after a 0-4 defeat at Leek Town, the board accepted it and keeper John Burridge stepped into the breach.
Taking caretaker charge for a league game at Witton and an abandoned Presidents Cup tie at Worksop Budgie was soon installed Player Manager on a permanent basis.
Unsurprisingly Budgie’s time in charge was eventful with a famous FA Cup game at Blackpool but it’s end was just as eventful but for less auspicious reason. Form hit a low and Budgie seemed unable to turn things around 2 wins in 14 home games was one of the worse home records the club had for many years and then just as it seemed it couldn’t get any worse it did. The club was handed a 10 point reduction from the NPL for playing a player without getting International Clearance then to make matters worse it turned out a player was used when he was supposed to be suspended!.
Budgie was sacked after a Senior Cup Final defeat at St James Park, popular tale has it he was in the bath when he was asked to step down, refusing he was then being sacked!.
Next into the hot seat was another hero from the 77/78 Cup run,
Alan Shoulder however in one of the shortest reigns ever for Blyth manager Shoulder was gone. After 14 games Alan had managed only 4 wins and his short spell in charge ended after an FA Cup defeat Chairman Ernie O’Keefe reluctantly accepted his resignation, Shoulder’s Assistant John Gamble stepped up to become Player/Manager.
The hugely popular defender’s reign in charge lasted just under a year, the club Centenary season didn’t go to plan and John resigned in the September after a very poor start which saw his side win 1 in 13 games and score in only 4 of the first 11 league games in which 5 players were sent off in the opening 9 games!.
Right back Michael Farrey & physio Glen Martin took charge for 1 game before the board appointed former Hartlepool manager Mick Tait, it was an impressive appointment landing Tait and it worked as he steered the side away from the relegation zone and achieved a decent 14th place finish. However financial problems caught up with the club once again leading to Tait and his assistant Tony Harrison quitting in July 2000 citing funds promised to build and side for a ‘promotion challenge’ weren’t forthcoming.
John Charlton was brought in as manager, it was his first experience as a manager but had coaching experience working under his father Jack while in charge of the Republic of Ireland team. Charlton set about his brief of building a team as cheaply as possible to keep the club in the NPL. Despite achieving this crowds were falling and money problems kept on growing. Money problems almost brought an end to the club in summer of 2001 as the club only just managed to stave off a winding up order. Charlton continued his policy of bringing on young players but come October 2002 the board’s faith in his approach was waning and yet again the FA Cup put pay to another manager, Charlton’s side lost at home to Runcorn Halton FC and he was sacked. The decision didn’t go down well with him and there was a bit of a ‘war of words’ with reports of threats made to players who continued to play for the club, a misunderstanding over player bonuses seemed to be the cause.
The club’s Football Development Officer Tom Wade took temporary charge and had the difficult task of sorting out the ‘issues’ left by a bitter Charlton. After 2 impressive victories things looked to have been sorted but heavy home defeat followed by a Monday night game at Drolysden brought things to a head, all of a sudden several players became ‘unavailable, injured or ill’ on the morning of the game!.
Only 7 players were available for the trip and Wade had to use his contacts in local football to draft in fours 17 years old’s from Blyth Town just to be able to field a side, and with no subs Blyth lost a player injured after 25 minutes with the game at a 0-0 stalemate. In the end the 10 men lost 0-7 but given the circumstances the players deserved the utmost credit for playing the consequences of not fulfilling the fixture far worse than losing 3 points!.
A fortnight after sacking Charlton the club appointed his replacement in former Hartlepool legend and UEFA ‘B’ coach Paul Baker, he had played for the club 4 times under Charlton.
Although not primarily a Player/Manager Baker would continue to be registered as a player and used himself on another 9 occasions over his near 2 year spell in charge.
Wade stayed on as assistant until he was replaced by forward Graham Fenton for the 2003/04 season. Despite the much-needed overhaul of the playing squad Baker’s team struggled badly in the league there was a 10 game win less run as the club finished 3rd bottom 2 points from safety!.
*Fortunately for the club there was a very lucky escape because for once a bottom 3 place didn’t lead to relegation, the season had been played in the knowledge that the Northern Premier, Southern Premier & Isthmian League would provide their top 13 teams to create the new Conference North & South feeder leagues to the Conference Premier.
The new 2004/05 season brought hope with the new assistant in place but after another raft of new signings things hadn’t improved much 2 wins in 7 games and a surprise home FA Cup defeat at hands of North West Counties league side Skelmersdale United put severe pressure on Baker, despite calls to quit he stood firm only to quit 4 days later after another league defeat at Whitby.
The next appointment changed the fortunes of the club in ways nobody could have imagined after seasons of struggling in the NPL. After 9 years service Harry Duun had been sacked by Whitby shortly before Baker had quit the Croft Park hot seat and to many it was the perfect fit, the deal was done and Harry Dunn was tasked with reviving the floundering team who sat bottom of the NPL. It initially took time to turn things around but Dunn and his assistant Graham Fenton achieved a respectable 12th place finish.
Harry Dunn’s legendary status with Blyth fans was enhanced even more in the following 2 season’s. Having won the First Division title at the 1st attempt back in 1994/95, he then went one better in his first full season back at the club guiding the side to the NPL Premier League title despite a crazy fixture backlog. Dunn then saw his side adjust to the Conference North with ease topping the league in September and come April they only just missed out on the Play off’s by 3 points!. The next season Dunn’s team found it tougher and finished 18th, but in 2008/09 Harry Dunn guided the club to the 3rd Round of the FA Cup for the 1st time in 31 years. The league campaign took a severe hit as they concentrated on the cup and it took a sterling effort to salvage the league season fight off the threat of relegation and achieve a 15th place finish.
With Harry’s contract up at the end of the season the board decided not to extend it and there was a parting of the ways for arguably one of the greatest managers the club had ever had.
There was a return for a former manager when the board acted quickly to appoint Mick Tait as new manager in the May. Since 2000 he had an eventful year at Darlington acting as Caretaker Manager, Full time manager & Reserve Team Coach and a spell as manager of the ill-fated Newcastle Blue Star. His 2 year spell back at Croft Park saw the Spartans play an exciting brand of free-flowing football which lead to an FA Trophy Quarter Final appearance for 1st time in 28 years. However after a 9th place finish in 2010/11, Tait left the club at the end of the season
Once again the board acted very quickly and within days had a new management team in place, former Spartan Steve Cuggy was appointed manager having been coach at Whitley Bay. However despite confidence it was a fresh start with the appointment of an up and coming young manager it was anything but and lead to a turbulent time for the club which was to see 3 managers in a single season!. Despite an FA Cup 1st Round appearance the league results were far from the expected level and the club found itself in a relegation battle!, Cuggy resigned in the December.
The highly experienced former Workington & Whitby manager Tommy Cassidy was seen as the perfect appointment to try to save the club from relegation.
However the task looked to be a daunting one for Cassidy as it took him 9 games to record his 1st victory. By then the damaged looked to have been done, after only 5 wins in his 20 games it was not enough and it was a bitter blow for the club to lose the Conference North status it valued so highly. It was the 1st time the club had ever been relegated in its 113 years. Cassidy failed to turn the clubs fortunes around and despite 5 wins in the opening 12 games of the new season the board terminated his contract after a FA Cup defeat at his former club Workington.
Former Blyth playerand Cassidy’s assistant Paddy Atkinson was caretaker for a month before being appointed permanently. He in appointed Tom Wade as his No.2.
Atkinson’s spell didn’t go well, lasting 4 months and 25 games. After only 7 wins recorded and the club’s heaviest defeat since 1953, a 1-8 mauling at Worksop, he handed in his resignation in early March 2013 citing ‘increasing work commitments’.
Once again Tom Wade stepped into the breach. He had taking charge for a game at Kendal when only days before handing in his resignation Atkinson had stated he was ‘unavailable’!.
Wade recorded the club’s 1st away victory of the season at Kendal and the board ‘offered’ him the role until the end of the campaign. Within a month Wade had accepted the offer of managing the club for the following 2013/14 season.
In typical Spartans managerial style Wade’s 100th game in charge came in the competition that had cost so many managers their job. He joined Allan Jones, Brian Slane & Harry Dunn taking the club into the 3rd Round of the FA Cup dramatically beating Hartlepool United 2-1 away watched by millions live on the BBC.
Not a bad way to celebrate 100 games in charge!.
In September 2016 Wade decided to step down, his final game in charge was his 200th as manager (add in those as assistant and its 315 games).
Having been appointed in March 2013 he transformed a struggling side finishing in a higher league position in each of his 3 season’s in charge. His final season saw the club achieve a record 99 points only to finish 2nd and then miss out on promotion in the NPL Play Off’s.
The club acted quickly appointing former Middlesbrough & Ipswich striker Alun Armstrong.
Alun ran his own Soccer School business and had been working in a coaching capacity at Middlesbrough FC. After discussions with the Blyth board he decided to resign his post at Boro and take up the managers job offer.
In his first season in charge his side ran away with the NPL Premier Division title.
They became the first Blyth side in 30 years to score 100 league goals, hitting a total of 114. For the first time in the club’s history the 100 points marked was reached, the 101 points total secured a return to the National League North.
He became only the 3rd Blyth manager ever to win a promotion.
The 2 trophies he won, the NPL title & Senior Cup in that 2015/16 was the club’s first trophy double for 11 years.
In 2017/18 they finished a very respectable 10th place and then in 18/19 season he achieved the club’s highest ever league placing.
Finishing the season with a superb 10 game unbeaten run, winning the last 7 games, sealed a 6th place finish. It give Blyth their first ever NLN Play Off place, unfortunately after an epic game they lost on penalties.
In May 2019 after 2 years & 8 months in charge, Alun left to become manager of Darlington FC.
On Saturday 1st June 2019 the club made the surprise announcement that former Newcastle United and Sunderland midfielder Lee Clark was their new manager.
Lee has managed at Huddersfield Town, Birmingham City, Blackpool and Bury, and a spell in Scotland managing Kilmarnock.
The 46 year old has not managed since parting company with Bury in October 2017, but was honoured to join Blyth:
“First and foremost, it’s football – I love it, I want to be on the grass”.
“I’ve been too long out the game and an opportunity to be at home around my family at a great club with great tradition. When they contacted me and I was honoured.”.
On March 4th 2020 the club announced that Lee Clark & his assistant Paul Stephenson had left the club by mutual consent.
After a poor season the team were 2nd bottom of the National League League and starring relegation in the face.
41 different players had been used by Clark so far that season and it was the last player he’d signed who was yet to even play due to a postponement, who filled the breach.
Highly experienced defender Michael Nelson, who had joined less than a week earlier, would “take charge of team affairs for the remainder of the season”.
Michael had recently been assistant manager at Stevenage before leaving them in February, he had played in the National League North earlier in the season for Gateshead in a Player/Coach role.
However after only 1 game in charge due to a postponement the 2019/20 season was suspended due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
On 22nd April the National League announced the season was officially ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday 1st May 2020 the club announced that Michael Nelson had been appointed permanent manager.
- The managers of Blyth Spartans AFC in reverse order:
Michael Nelson – May 2020 >
- Michael Nelson Caretaker Manager / Player March 2020 > April 2020
Lee Clark – June 2019 > March 2020
Assistant Manager – Paul Stephenson – June 2019 > March 2020
Alun Armstrong – September 2016 > May 2019
Assistant Manager/Player – Neal Hooks – August 2016 > May 2019
Joint Assistant Manager – Darren Holloway – October 2015 > May 2019
Tom Wade – March 2013 > September 2016
Assistant Manager/Player – Neal Hooks – August 2016 > May 2019
Assistant Manager John Cornforth – June 2016 > July 2016
Coach Lee Picton – February 2015 > May 2016
Assistant Colin Myers – June 2013 > February 2015
Coach John Cornforth – March 2013 > May 2013
Paddy Atkinson – November 2012 > March 2013
Assistant Tom Wade – October 2012 > March 2013
- Paddy Atkinson Caretaker Manager October 2012 – November 2012
Tommy Cassidy – December 2011 > October 2012
Team Coach Paddy Atkinson – June 2012 > October 2012
Assistant Gavin Fell – May 2011 > May 2012
Steve Cuggy – May 2011 > December 2011
Assistant Gavin Fell
Mick Tait – May 2009 > May 2011
Player/Assistant Manager Chris Swailes June 2010 – May 2011.
Assistant Adam Sadler June 2009 – January 2010
Harry Dunn – October 2004 > April 2009
Assistant Graham Fenton
- Graham Fenton & Paddy Atkinson – Caretaker Managers September 2004
Paul Baker – November 2002 > September 2004
Player/Assistant Graham Fenton Summer 2004 – September 2004
Assistant Tom Wade November 2002 – Summer 2004
- Tom Wade – Caretaker Manager October/November 2002
John Charlton – July 2000 > October 2002
Assistant Graeme Clark
Mick Tait – September 1999 > July 2000
Assistant Tony Harrison
- Michael Farrey – Caretaker Manager (1 game) September 1999
John Gamble – October 1998 > September 1999
Assistant Lawrie Pearson
Alan Shoulder – May 1998 > October 1998
Assistant John Gamble
- John Gamble & Martin Pike – Caretaker Managers (1 game) May 1998
John Burridge – Player Manager – March 1997 > March 1998
Peter Harrison – November 1995 > March 1997
Player/Assistant Bruce Halliday September 1996 > March 1997
Player/ Assistant Derek Bell – November 1995 > September 1996
Coach Tony Lowery – November 1995
Director of Football David McCreery – November 1995
Tony Lowery – Coach
David McCreery – Director of Football
September 1995 > November 1995
Harry Dunn – May 1994 > September 1995
Coach Tony Lowery
- Dave Robertson Caretaker Manager March – May 1994
Peter Feenan – February 1993 > March 1994
Ronnie Walton – April 1990 > February 1993
(Nigel Walker Caretaker Manager February – March 1992)
- Steve Carney Caretaker Manager March – April 1990
Tommy Dixon – November 1988 – March 1990
Assistant Ronnie Walton
Dave Clarke – August 1988 – November 1988
Assistant Geoff Hart
Jim Pearson – November 1985 – August 1988
Assistant Fred Turnbull, Coach Dave Clarke
Peter Feenan – May 1984 – October 1985
2nd – Derek Middleton
1st – Alan York
Mick Dagless – November 1983 – May 1984
Assistant/Coach Brian Main
John Connolly – Player Manager –
November 1982 – November 1983
Coach Mick Dagless
Bob Elwell – June 1981 – November 1982
Coach Tony (Anthony) Britt
Jackie Marks – December 1978 – May 1981
Coach Peter Flaherty
Coach Gary Moore
Brian Slane – Player Manager –
February 1977 – December 1978
Coach Jackie Marks
Player Coach Eddie Alder
Alan O’Neill – August 1974 – February 1977
Trainer Pat Smith
Eddie Alder & Billy Fenwick – Joint Managers
May 1973 – August 1974
Billy Bell – June 1972 – May 1973
Allan Jones – May 1970 – April 1972
Trainer Billy Fenwick
Jackie Marks – May 1968 – May 1970
Trainer Billy Fenwick
- Peter Flaherty Caretaker Manager March 1968 – May 1968
- Billy Fenwick Caretaker Manager October 1967- March 1968
Tony Knox – Player Manager
August 1967 – October 1967
Trainer Billy Fenwick
Jim Turney – April 1957 – Summer 1967
Trainer Billy Fenwick
Dougie Wright – Player Manager
December 1954 – April 1957
Contract as manager not extended but Wright stayed on as Secretary.
*Team was picked by the committee until Wright appointed.
Tom Blenkinsopp – Player Manager
Summer 1953 – Summer 1954
*Team was picked by the committee until Blenkinsopp appointed.
Joe Wilson – Player Manager
April 1948 – April 1950
* Wilson became first player manager.
Mark Lawton – July 1946 – April 1948
Joe Wilson Player Coach
- November 1939 Blyth Spartans ceased due to the outbreak of the war.
Mark Lawton – December 1938 – November 1939
Trainer Billy Lawton
Billy Hogg – May 1937 – December 1938
Trainer Billy Lawton
Ernie Hoffman – Secretary/Manager
May 1933 – May 1937
Trainer Billy Lawton
* Hoffman was appointed as a Full Time Secretary initially and then combined the role with team manager.
* Hoffman was the first person to be given the official title ‘Manager’ of Blyth Spartans.
Before Ernie Hoffman the team was picked by the committee.
The club employed a ‘Trainer’ who looked after the players, he trained/coached them but the committee picked the team on his recommendations.
Hugh Richmond – Trainer 1928 – May 1933
Joe ‘Jack’ Blythe – Trainer & groundsman 1913 – circa 1926
- Credits, Acknowledgments & Thank you’s:
Dan Jackson for providing excellent information & images on his great-grandfather Mark Lawton.
Ken Sproat for images and information and of course his superb book ‘The History of Blyth Spartans’ was a crucial source of info.
Kevin Tilmouth for providing information & images on former managers.
The following excellent football websites were used for reference & info: