Tommy Orrick’s goal scoring feats rivalled that of any of the famed strikers at the regions professional clubs, however it was the supporters of the region’s Non League clubs who saw his remarkable talent in front of goal and ability to transform the fortunes of the clubs he played for.
Tommy joined his local club North Shields aged only 17, after a short spell in the reserves he got his chance in the first team for a North Eastern Counties League Cup tie away at Stockton, he scored in the 1-1 draw. Come the 1962/63 season North Shields were now in the North Eastern League and 19-year-old Tom was holding down a regular starting place, he scored 12 times in his first 19 appearances attracting the attentions of scouts from league clubs and other local clubs.
He was offered professional terms at Portsmouth, where his father was working in the Navy, but Tommy wanted to stay in the North East he had no regrets about his decision, as a distinguished career followed.
10 times FA Amateur Cup Winners Bishop Auckland snapped up the promising youngster, playing under management of Bishop’s legend Bob Hardisty, it didn’t take him long to become a hit with the fans.
In September he scored a brace in a 7-1 hammering of ‘West’ in the Auckland Derby, initially a winger it was at Bishops were Tommy was pushed up front:
“I was really a right-winger but they put me up front playing just off Jimmy Douglas which resulted in 11 goals in 3 games”.
Tommy enjoyed his time at Kingsway:
“Bishops were a really big club at that time, having had great success in the ‘50s. It was the kind of club where you could turn up in your pyjamas – as long as you were wearing your club tie!”.
“Bishops were really disliked by opposition management and players. They did things their own way like getting to games. I lived in Byker at the time and, say we were playing at Whitley Bay, I had to get myself to Bishop Auckland to catch the team coach to Whitley. Then after the match get the team coach back to Bishop and then get myself back to Byker!”.
In 1963 Tom and four of his team mates moved to Northern League Champions Crook Town, but it didn’t work out as he had hoped:
“They had the best 20 players in the Northern League and used a rotation system so I ended up playing only once every three weeks.”
In 1964 he moved nearer his home joining Whitley Bay, it proved a great move for him. Playing up front with Billy Wright & Bob Gidney, they score for fun Wright bagged a superb 51 while Tommy got 17 in his 33 games. Tommy was selected to represent Northumberland in the Northern Counties Championship while playing for the Bay.
It was Whitley’s most successful season as an Amateur side, they scored 112 league goals to dramatically snatch the League title from Tommy’s old club Crook Town in their last game. Crook were running away with the league but surprisingly lost at Stanley United while Tommy scored in Bay’s 5-3 hammering of Billingham, Crook then lost 1-3 at Northern League new boys North Shields while Bay beat West Auckland 1-0 to give themselves a chance.
While Crook drew their last game 0-0 at Willington, Tommy scored twice in Bay’s 7-2 hammering of South Bank. With 1 game left Whitley only needed a point to win the title, Bay held their nerve winning 2-1 at Penrith to claim their club’s 1st Northern League title 7 years after joining.
A week later the Tommy made it a hat trick of trophies when the Bay beat Heaton Stannington 4-3 in the Northumberland Senior Cup Final at St James Park. They also reached the Quarter Finals of the FA Amateur Cup only to lose out to eventual winners Hendon 1-2 in front of a 7,000+ crowd packed into Hillheads.
In summer of 1965 Tommy surprisingly left Whitley Bay when he and 3 team-mates decided they wanted a new challenge, and it was a challenge leaving the League Champions for the club who had finished bottom!.
It was a moved that transformed the fortunes of a club and lead to Tommy being acclaimed as one of the club’s most influential players ever. Along with his friends Malcolm Peel, Stewart Graham & Michael Hind, they ‘offered’ their services to Blyth Spartans manager Jim Turney.
Turney had lost forward Ken Duffell to North Shields so to have a player of Tommy’s calibre offer to play for the club was one he couldn’t refuse:
“Within half an hour of calling Jim Turney he was on my doorstep”.
Blyth had struggled adapting to life as an Amateur club, finishing rock bottom in their very 1st season but Tommy never regretted the move: “Playing at Blyth was the highlight of my career. I would have been delighted to have finished my career at Croft Park. The whole atmosphere around the club was like one big family”. Tommy scored on his
Spartans debut as they raced into a 0-3 lead at Tow Law only to be pegged back and finally beaten 5-4. He found the back of the net with his usual regularity but results were still going against the Spartans who once again were proven too easily beaten.
Fortunes eventually started to turn and unsurprisingly Tommy was to play a pivotal role in the clubs revival, one game is noted in the club’s history book as the turning point.
5th February 1966 saw North Regional League Ashington visit Croft Park in a Northumberland Senior Cup tie, the return of the famous old ‘Blyth Spirit’ was on show as Blyth came from behind to beat local rival’s Ashington 3-2, Tommy lead the clubs revival with the opening goal, scored at 2.44pm it was credited in the clubs recent history book as the turning point for the clubs fortunes.
Spartans only lost 2 more games that season as Tommy finished with a 34 goals, including 4 hat tricks and a 4 goals haul in a 6-1 hammering of Ferryhill, the Spartans of old were finally back and the goals flowed the last four games saw a 6-1, 7-4 7-0 and a 4-0 victories. A respectable 10th place was achieved; thanks to Tommy Blyth were the league’s 3rd highest goal scorers, reflecting on those historic 3 successive hat-tricks he magnanimously stated:
“I shall look back on these games as games won by Blyth rather than Orrick hat-tricks. The team spirit at Blyth is the best I have known, and that’s half the battle”.
There were high hopes for 1966/67 season after the strong end to the previous campaign but it soon disappeared with only 1 win in the opening 4 league games, a 3-1 victory at Penrith in which Tommy opened his account for the season.
An 4-1 FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round home win over Whitley Bay, Tommy scored against his old club for the 1st time since joining the Spartans, raised hopes but they were dashed 3 days later when Bay beat Blyth in a league meeting!.
Things did click into place and as the team settled, Tommy scored yet another hat trick as Blyth beat Tow Law 3-2 after extra time in an FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round replay, the replay victory was even more remarkable because Tow Law had led 2-0 at half time!. Tommy found the net again in the next round as Blyth beat Gateshead 3-1 at Redheugh Park to set up a 1st Round tie with another of Tommy’s former club’s Bishop Auckland. Before that game Tommy scored in 4 successive games including a penalty in the 2-2 draw with a Sunderland XI at Croft Park on Tuesday 8th November 1966 to mark official switching on of the Croft Park floodlights.
The Bishop Auckland cup ties were truly epic, 3 draws sent the tie to a 3rd replay.
The 2nd replay was staged at Roker Park ending 3-3 after extra time, a meagre 2,306 witnessed Tommy scoring directly from a corner after 10 minutes to put Blyth 1-0 up.
The 3rd replay was also staged at Roker Park after Newcastle United refused use of St James Park because they had a home game the following weekend!.
The cup dream ended that December night despite Tommy scoring Bishop’s ran out 1-4 winners. The cup ties had set Tommy off an a prolific run of goals, he scored in 6 successive games, the last home game of the season saw Tommy score the ‘goal of the season’.
Blyth beat Willington 5-0 and lead 4-0 at half time guess who scored all 4!, his fourth saw him pick up a loose ball in midfield race 20 yards with it before launching a 20 yard rocket that give the keeper no chance.
Tommy ended an eventful season with 34 goals 1967/68 season saw Jim Turney step down as manager and Tony Knox was appointed Player Manager, the Spartans got off to a flyer. It took Tommy only 7 minutes of the new campaign to open his account scoring in the 2-2 at Penrith, he scored in 4 successive game including yet another hat trick in the 4-0 win at Durham. His 1st penalty of the season in the 6-0 home win over Willington, and then scored an 85th minute equaliser in the 1-1 FA Cup draw at Gateshead, then dramatically scored the winner in the replay in the dying second after Gateshead had equalised with only 6 minutes left.
Tommy then beat his own record when he scored in 9 successive games, the 19 goals in those games included 3 hat tricks one of which was in a 4 goal haul in Spartans 6-0 win at Hearst of Liddesdale which turned out to be Tony Knox’s final game in charge before he stepped down due to work commitments.
The club’s goal scoring record was under serious threat, Johnny Langland had scored 53 in 1957/58 and Tommy was on course to beat that total, his team mates played their part and began setting him up and not scoring themselves when they could.
The last game brought Billingham Synthonia to Croft Park and Tommy managed to equal the record thanks to fellow striker John Evans when he went around the keeper but did not score himself he waited to Tommy before passing to allow him to ‘tap’ the ball home for his 53rd of the season and at the final whistle the crowd flooded on top the pitch to celebrate his achievement.
In later years Tommy reflected on only equalling Johnny Langlands record:
“I’m just proud to have equalled the record. It’s an honour to have played for Blyth and to have been part of it all”. “A few years later, when Brian Slane looked like he would beat that total, I was praying that he would so that I could congratulate him in the same way Johnny Langland had made a point of congratulating me”.
The club arranged a special social evening to mark his achievement and presented Tommy with an engraved gold watch as recognition of his outstanding achievement.
Blyth appointed a new manager a week after the season finished and staggeringly it brought to an end Tommy’s time at Croft Park.
Having missed out to Tony Knox a year earlier, Jackie Marks was appointed the new manager, but the biggest shock of all was to come when Marks allowed Tommy who had scored a staggering 116 goals in 3 season to leave Croft Park!.
To the utter disbelief of the Blyth fans, Marks believed the side relied on Tommy too much and it would be better to have a ‘balanced’ team!.
Tommy later stated he didn’t want to leave and would have happily played out his career at Croft Park:
“They were such good times that I would have given up on my Amateur Cup medal which I later won with North Shields to have stayed at Blyth!. But Blyth coach Jackie Marks wanted the side to run for 90 minutes and said that all I did was score goals.
When I heard that I knew it was time to move on.”
Blyth’s loss was certainly North Shields gain when he returned to where it all began, and once again it was a move that transformed a clubs fortunes.
Under the management of Frank Brennan North Shields completed a superb trophy treble, but this treble included the Holy Grail of Amateur football!.
In only their 4th season playing in the Amateur Cup Brennan guided the club to Wembley glory coming from behind to beat Sutton United 2-1.
Shields had already won a league double, claiming the league title by 1 point over local rivals Whitley Bay scoring a 106 goals in the process and conceding only 29!.
The League Cup was also won for the 1st time beating Tow Law.
But it was the events of Saturday April 12th 1969 that cemented them in North East folklore.
That victory was by North Shields in only their 4th season in the competition, it was some achievement because clubs had to play 4 regional qualifying rounds just to reach the national 1st Round!.
Shields earned their place at Wembley having beaten Skelmersdale United in a Semi Final replay at Southport, the fact the tie went to a replay was thanks to Tommy.
Down to 10 men at Ayresome Park with time ticking away he came on as a sub to score the dramatic equaliser that sending the tie to a replay. He came on as a sub for the injured Ray Wrightson in the replat staged at Southport FC as Shields came from behind to reach Wembley.
On Saturday 12th April a 47,500 crowd saw Frank Brennan lead out his team, Tommy who had made his Shields debut playing alongside the manager some 9 years earlier once again had to settle for a place the bench.
Brennan was meticulous in his planning for the Final, including not wanting his players to be overawed on the day so took them to see Wembley when they arrived in London on the Friday.
Tommy recalled the only shock came when they saw the state of the hallowed Wembley turf: “Wembley had had the Horse of the Year Show the weekend before, when we arrived to have a look around on the Friday afternoon, the pitch was still all churned up and there were men literally painting the grass. It was amazing how good it looked by the Saturday.”
Sutton got off to a flyer scoring after on 4 minutes through Mick Mellows and they had another disallowed from Dario Gradi. In the second half Shields superior fitness and tactics won them the game.Tommy came off the bench and turned the game on its head setting up the equaliser, it was his corner that Richie Hall headed past Sutton keeper Roffey and then he crossed for the in rushing Brian Joicey to hammer home the all important winner as North Shields became the last ever Northern League side to win the illustrious trophy.
Despite all the planning before the kick off, Tommy recalled the players almost went on strike before they had even left North Tyneside:
“The directors were always fantastic to us, but they weren’t going to pay for the wives and girlfriends to travel down so we threatened to go on strike.”
“We were going to get £30 each for winning. In the end they let the wives go if we paid £28 each. We won the cup for two quid.”
Tommy later reflected on his part in the game and the celebrations:
“Coming on as sub when were losing one nil the players agreed that we needed to show some true Geordie grit. We did and we went on to win. Even better than walking out at Wembley though was when our open-topped bus drove through Byker and the lads made sure I was holding the Cup as we passed my family.
The teamwork & fitness that had served them so well at Wembley also brought them the clubs 1st ever Northern League title, a superb run from 25th January saw them drop only 1 point until the end of the season.
The run saw them pip local rivals Whitley Bay to the title by 1 point!, having to play 5 games in 11 days didn’t faze Frank Brennan’s side as Tommy went on an amazing scoring run.
They beat Spennymoor 4-1 with Tommy scoring a brace, 2 days later beat Stanley 4-2 when Tommy scored another brace. He then bagged another 2 on the 5th May when they Durham City 3-0, 2 days later another brace in a 3-0 win over Billingham Synthonia to set up a dramatic final day.
Whitley Bay drew 3-3 with Shildon, meaning Shields 4-1 victory at Whitby gave them the title by a single point and unsurprisingly Tommy scored 2 in the famous 4-1 victory.
A superb treble was completed on 14th May when they beat Tow Law 2-0 at Spennymoor to claim League Cup, Tommy scored his 45th of the season & Bobby Wake scored the other, while the ease in which they could score goals had won them the title with a total of 106 goals they also had the best defensive record conceding only 29, that rock solid defence showed is worth in the Final because the Lawyers 3rd place Lawyers had outscored them with 110 league goals.
The Robins actually reached the Northumberland Senior Cup Final that season but due to the back log in fixture the Final was held over until the start of the 1969/70 season.
Local rivals Whitley Bay took their revenge for losing out in the title race beating Shields 4-0 at St James Park on 30th August.
However with a month they made up for the Cup Final disappointment by becoming European winners, they accepted on invite to take part in the Coppa Ottrino Barassi, a challenge cup between the English & Italian Amateur Cup winners.
Almas of Rome came to Appleby Park for the 1st leg on 25th September, a 3,100 crowd saw Shields win 2-0 thanks to an early John Rutherford goal and a hotly disputed second half penalty from Tommy after he was adjudged to have been pushed by the Almas captain Antonio Sales.
The 2nd leg on the 11th October saw Almas run out 2-0 winners so with the aggregate score tied it was decided to share the trophy for 6 months each.
However it wasn’t an outcome that had been considered and there was only 1 set of winners medals!.
FA Secretary Denis Follows, who had helped North Shields organise the tie and the trip to Rome, got together with his Italian counterpart and both clubs Secretaries decided it would come down to a ‘toss of the coin’!.
Shields captain Ron Tatum called correctly and the Robins players came home with the winners medals and they got to hold the trophy 1st before it was returned to Almas for their turn.
Following their European adventure the rest of the season never reached the heights of the previous one, Tommy made 30 appearances but only managed 10 goals as their reign as Amateur Cup holders was ended after a 1st Round Replay defeat at Hartlepool’s Victoria Ground losing 1-3 to the side who also took their Northern league title, Evenwood.
1970/71 was Tommy’s swansong before retiring he was back on song scoring 24 in 34 games but once again Shields failed to reach the high standards they’d set themselves.
Despite ending Spennymoor’s 10 games unbeaten run with a surprise 2-0 victory at Brewey Field a title challenge petered out finishing 7th but they did reach the League Cup Final again, but local rivals Whitley Bay claimed the trophy with a 1-0 victory at Croft Park, Blyth.
Even after retiring the sportsman stayed in him and he was still playing in an over 40s league and ran half marathons until he turned 62, completing The Great North Run many times.
In 1973 he and his wife Ann formed one of the region’s most famous Junior teams, Cramlington Juniors. A local Catholic Priest was keen to keep up strong links with the community and Tommy & Ann had a vision to form a local junior football club. Discussions took place and Cramlington Juniors were born, Anne & Tommy eventually became Vice Presidents.
Hard work & good organisation developed the club which launched the careers of Premier League players Alan Shearer, Andy Sinton, Graham Fenton, Tommy Widdrington & Jack Colback.
Tommy’s reputation within the local game hadn’t gone unnoticed and he was contacted by then Ipswich Town manager Bobby Robson about joining his back room staff but a devoted family man with young children and a good job, Tommy declined the offer.
It wasn’t just in the world of football that Tommy had forged a great reputation, after he stopped playing he and his wife Ann spent a lot of time breeding & showing their English Setter at Crufts.
In February 2013 Tommy was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and then suffered at heart attack in the May, despite his illness Tommy still loved watching his old team play, North Shields Chairman Alan Matthews enjoyed seeing him at their games:
“Tommy would often come to the game and say I’m only staying for 10 minutes and 2 hours later we were still talking away 2 hours later!”.
After recovering he & Anne were guests of honour at Croft Park and he spoke openly to club’s Media Manager Phil Castiaux about his illness:
“It took seven doctors over two days to be sure. Consultant Tim Williams, a brilliant man, confirmed it. It’s very rare, with only 5,000 people in the UK with the disease at any one time”.
As for his heart attack he thought he just had heartburn:
“It was incredible, thought I had really bad heartburn. Ann rang for an ambulance and it was at the house within five minutes. An hour later I was on the operating table at the Freeman Hospital!. After a three-hour operation I was back home the following day.”
Tommy wasn’t letting it stop him doing another Great North Run:
“Obviously I can’t run it this year but I will be doing it in a wheelchair with five pushers, including my sons David and Mark as well as my grand-daughter’s fiancé Sam raising money for the MND Association.
The family have been brilliant all-round, helping with all sorts of things around the house to help Ann cope with my disability.”
He also pointed out his unsteadiness on his feet was partly down to an old football injury and how injuries have changed over the years:
“My legs aren’t good especially the left one which was the result of a football incident. I went to get the ball and the opposing goalkeeper caught me with his boot which raked up my thigh to my groin. The doctors just told me to rest, although nowadays they would have probably recommended an operation”.
Despite being in a wheelchair he was at Wembley in May 2015 to watch one of his former club’s become the 1st ever team to win bith the FA Amateur Cup & FA Vase.
North Shields remarkable revival saw them reach the Vase Final and many of Tommy’s 1969 teammates made the pilgrimage 46 years after their famous day at the old twin towers.
Upon reaching Wembley itself the ‘Spirit of 69’ and teamwork that had won them the Cup was on show again when 2 of his old team mates, Mick Morgan & Ron Tatum, spotted Tommy in his chair and picked him up and carried him into Wembley.
Fittingly with so many of the 1969 heroes watching on the current North Shields team repeated the feat of the 69’ team 46 years earlier coming from 1-0 down to win the FA Vase 2-1.
A player who changed the course of a Wembley Final,
a Wembley winner and a European Cup winner.
RIP Tommy Orrick… your legend will live on.
- Credits, Acknowledgements & Thank you’s:
Alan Matthews Chairman of North Shields FC for this help with information on Tommy’s career at North Shields FC & his memories of Tommy.
Craig Dodson, North Shields FC programme editor, for help with info & images.
Phil Castiaux, Blyth Spartans Media Manager Phil Castiaux, for use of his interview with Tommy.
Ken Sproat for allowing use of his interviews with Tommy for his superb history book ‘We’re the Famous Blyth Spartans‘.
Several books provided reference material:
‘We’re the Famous Blyth Spartans‘ The Official history of Blyth Spartans AFC.
Northern Goalfields, The Official Centenary History of the Northern League 1889-1989
Northern Goalfields Revisited, The Millennium History of the Northern League both researched, complied & written by Brian Hunt.
Kings of Amateur Soccer, The official centenary history of Bishop Auckland FC by Chris Foote Wood.
The following football websiteS were used for reference & info: