Blyth Spartans A.F.C.
|Full name||Blyth Spartans Association Football Club|
|Nickname(s)||The Spartans, Green Army|
|Capacity||4,435 (556 seated)|
|League||Northern Premier League
|2014–15||Northern Premier League
Blyth Spartans Association Football Club is an English football club based in Blyth, Northumberland. The club participates in the Northern Premier League Premier Division, the seventh tier of English football. They are currently managed by Tom Wade.
They were founded by Fred Stoker in September 1899, who was the club's first secretary before forming a practice as a distinguished physician in London's Harley Street. He thought it appropriate to name the team after the Greek Spartan army in the hope that the players would give their all as they went into "battle" on the field of play. The club is most notable for its 1977–78 FA Cup campaign, in which they went all the way to the 5th round only to be beaten by Wrexham in a replay at St James' Park.
In the beginning, the club played only friendly matches before joining the East Northumberland League in 1901. The first recorded honour being a league success in 1901 followed by further victories in 1905–06 and 1906–07. The club then joined the Northern Alliance, remaining there for six seasons winning the league in 1908–09 and 1912–13.
In 1913 the club moved upward joining the ranks of the semi professionals in the North Eastern League and remained there until it folded in 1958. The fierce competition meant that honours were few and far between, the league was however won in 1936–37 season and the league cup won in 1950 and again in 1955. After the demise of the North Eastern League the club tried their luck in the Midland League and Northern Counties League, both ending when the leagues folded. The early 1960s saw the revival of the North Eastern League with the club doing quite well. However the league suffered many problems and eventually folded for good.
The club was now at a loss for a suitable semi-professional league and in 1964 decided to turn amateur and join the ranks of the Northern League. During the 29 years the club were members their record was second to none, winning the Championship on 10 occasions and being runners up 5 times. However, a new regime at the club were keen to progress up the league pyramid and a successful push ended with promotion to the Northern Premier League in the 1993–94 season.
Rise up the pyramid
The club's first season in the Northern Premier League was memorable, winning the First Division Championship and the Unifilla First Division League Cup. Since gaining promotion the club held its own in the Premier division, finishing 6th and 7th in its first two seasons as well as lifting the President's Cup defeating former Conference side Runcorn in the final.
Following that the executive looked firstly to John Charlton (son of Jack Charlton) followed by Paul Baker as team managers but these successive managers were without the required success demanded by the fans.
Harry Dunn's success and the Conference North
Harry Dunn was appointed in October 2004 for a second time. In 2005–06 Harry Dunn and his assistant Graham Fenton continued creating a further notch in the Spartans history by winning the Northern Premier League Premier Division as well as the Northern Premier League Chairman's Cup and the Peter Swailes Memorial Shield, and with it promotion to the Conference North.
In their first season in the Conference North Blyth cemented themselves in the top half of the table whilst even enjoying a brief stint in 1st place. The season ended with Blyth narrowly missing out on a playoff position on the final day finishing 7th.
After an initial successful first season, Blyth found themselves at the opposite end of the table the season after. But some wins towards the end of the season including a 2–0 win against Champions Kettering Town saw Blyth preserve their Conference North status. The third season was a similar story with Blyth again struggling for much of the season but grabbing important wins towards the end of the season to avoid the drop. A relatively comfortable 15th place finish did not give much clue as to the frantic battle against relegation which had preceded it.
After two successful campaigns to preserve Conference North status the end of the 2008–09 season saw the end of Harry Dunn's second spell at Croft Park. No time was wasted in appointing his successor and on 9 May former Hartlepool United, Darlington & Sheffield United Reserves Manager Mick Tait took up the post for his second spell in charge at Croft Park.
Relegation and Decline
It was announced in May 2011 that then Whitley Bay assistant manager Steve Cuggy would take over as manager. He along with his assistant Gavin Fell saw a complete overhaul of the squad that summer, letting popular players leave the club such as Robbie Dale. After initial excitement following a good pre-season, the performances on the pitch were extremely poor, however Blyth just got into the FA Cup 1st round after beating Droylsden 2-1 at home in the 4th qualifying round replay before losing 2-0 to rivals Gateshead. Following defeat to Halifax Town in December it was announced that Steve Cuggy had left the club. Later that month, former Newcastle United player Tommy Cassidy took charge but didn't have much of an impact on the squad and performances continued to become a concern. And on 24 March 2012, Blyth Spartans had their first ever relegation confirmed after a 1-0 home defeat to Gloucester City.
The following pre-season saw Blyth end up losing quality players who were not replaced. The season started with mixed results, but after very early exits from the FA Cup & the FA Trophy, Cassidy was sacked. In October caretaker manager Paddy Atkinson was given the job, however this did not make much of an improvement including an 8-1 away defeat to Worksop Town. On 8 March the news broke that Paddy Atkinson had resigned as manager.
Tom Wade era
On 12 March 2013 it was announced that caretaker manager Tom Wade would be appointed on a deal until the end of the season. After some improved results, Wade was given a contract extension for the 2013/14 season in early April. That summer Wade brought promising youngsters Rob Nolan and Dean Holmes in from North Shields, as well as other promising youngsters. In early August Aaron Wearmouth signed from Bishop Auckland for a fee of £1500.
During the First World War women working in factories and on the docks played football, including a team in the Spartans' colours and using their ground, variously known as the Blyth Spartan Ladies F.C. and the Blyth Spartans Munitionettes, with Bella Raey as the star player. They continued until 1921 when women's football was banned from its grounds by the F.A. The team was never beaten, playing 30 matches, winning 26 and drawing 4.
In 2001 a Blyth Spartans Ladies team was again formed, but despite considerable success closed in 2009.
FA Cup exploits
Blyth Spartans have reached the first round proper of the FA Cup 31 times; the second round 14 times; the third round 4 times, the fourth round once and the fifth round once.
Blyth reached the fifth round of the FA Cup in 1977–78. Having beaten Chesterfield and Stoke City (who had recently been relegated from the top flight) in the second and fourth rounds respectively, they managed to beat Enfield, another non-league club, in the 3rd round. The club were then drawn to play away at Wrexham (whose victory over Newcastle United denied Spartans a tie against their North East neighbours) where they drew 1–1. The replay took place at Newcastle United's St James' Park where, watched by a crowd of 42,167, Blyth eventually went out, losing 2–1, meaning they missed out on a home tie with Arsenal.
Blyth's next memorable cup run came in their first season as a Northern Premier League Premier Division club in 1995–96, when they travelled to high flying Division Three side Bury and won 2–0. In the second round, Blyth again were on their travels this time to Division Two side Stockport County where they lost 2–0.
It was 11 years before Blyth reached the 1st round again, but finally in 2008-09 Blyth hit the cup trail again. Qualifying round wins against Whitby Town, Buxton and Sheffield FC saw Blyth reach the first round for the first time since 1997. A home tie against League Two promotion chasers Shrewsbury Town saw Croft Park host league opposition for the first time since 1981. The result matched the occasion as Blyth ran out comfortable 3–1 winners.
The second round saw Blyth travel to League Two strugglers AFC Bournemouth, who included Darren Anderton amongst their players. A hard fought 0–0 draw on the South Coast saw Blyth take Bournemouth back to Croft Park, where Ged Dalton put Blyth through to the third round with a last minute winner. Both games were shown live on Setanta Sports.
In the third round, Blyth played Premier League opposition competitively for the first time in their history when they welcomed Blackburn Rovers to Croft Park. In a game again covered live by Setanta Sports, Blyth fell to a 1–0 defeat with the only goal coming via a direct free kick from Chilean player of the year Carlos Villanueva in the 59th minute. A win would have ensured a tie with North East neighbours Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Notable FA Cup games:
- 1971–72 Round 1: Crewe Alexandra 0–1 Blyth Spartans
- 1971–72 Round 2: Blyth Spartans 1–0 Stockport County
- 1971–72 Round 3: Blyth Spartans 2–2 Reading
- 1977–78 Round 2: Blyth Spartans 1–0 Chesterfield
- 1977–78 Round 4: Stoke City 2–3 Blyth Spartans
- 1977–78 Round 5: Wrexham 1–1 Blyth Spartans
- 1977–78 Round 5 (replay): Blyth Spartans 1–2 Wrexham
- 1995–96 Round 1: Bury 0–2 Blyth Spartans
- 1997–98 Round 1: Blackpool 4–3 Blyth Spartans
- 2008–09 Round 1: Blyth Spartans 3–1 Shrewsbury Town
- 2008–09 Round 2: AFC Bournemouth 0–0 Blyth Spartans
- 2008–09 Round 2 (replay): Blyth Spartans 1–0 AFC Bournemouth
- 2008–09 Round 3: Blyth Spartans 0–1 Blackburn Rovers
- 2014–15 Round 2: Hartlepool United 1-2 Blyth Spartans
- 2014-15 Round 3: Blyth Spartans vs Birmingham City FC
Blyth play their home games at Croft Park, which was opened by Mrs Clarke of Bellister Castle, Haltwhistle on 1 September 1909. The first match was a friendly against Newcastle United which ended in a 4–2 defeat.
In 2003 Croft Park underwent an extensive redevelopment which saw much of the ash terracing levelled and replaced with concrete terracing. New dugouts and a wheelchair enclosure were also added. Further developments have been made to meet full Conference North criteria. These developments include extending the Port of Blyth main stand roof to cover the bottom tier which has had seats installed, building a roof over the Plessey Road terrace, providing cover for 1100, and building three new turnstiles at the Princess Louise Road end.
Following the 2008–09 FA Cup run, some of the money raised was spent on covering the Kingsway Terrace. For the first time Croft Park is now covered on all four sides. The pitch has also been moved by a metre to improve the view from the terraces. And the old goal posts have been taken down and replaced with new modern equipment.
To celebrate Croft Park's centenary Blyth played a Newcastle United side, the team who provided its first opposition. Just like the first game the result finished 4–2 to Newcastle United.
- As of 1 October 2014.
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
Notable former players
- Adam Bartlett – over 100 appearances for Blyth Spartans
- Graham Fenton – over 100 appearances for Blyth Spartans
- Mick O'Brien – Ireland international
- Adrian Webster – New Zealand international
- Ali Dia – Played 53 Minutes for Southampton in a Premier League game as a con footballer
- Robert Birdsall – Ireland Under-21 International
Managers – past & present
2014/2015 Season - Tom Wade
2013/2014 Season - Tom Wade
2012/2013 Season - 1st - Tommy Cassidy 2nd - Paddy Atkinson 3rd - Tom Wade
2011/2012 Season - 1st - Steve Cuggy 2nd - Tommy Cassidy
2010/2011 Season - Mick Tait
2009/2010 Season - Mick Tait
2008/2009 Season - Harry Dunn
2007/2008 Season - Harry Dunn
2006/2007 Season - Harry Dunn
2006/2007 Season - Harry Dunn
2005/2006 Season - Harry Dunn
2003/2004 Season - Paul Baker
2002/2003 Season - 1st - John Charlton 2nd - Paul Baker
1999/2000 Season - 1st - John Gamble 2nd - Mick Tait
1998/1999 Season - 1st - Alan Shoulder 2nd - John Gamble
1997/1998 Season - John Burridge
1996/1997 Season - 1st - Peter Harrison 2nd - John Burridge
1995/1996 Season - 1st - Harry Dunn 2nd - Tony Lowery/David McCreery Joint Managers in temporary charge 3rd - Peter Harrison
1994/1995 Season - Harry Dunn
1993/1994 Season - Peter Feenan
1992/1993 Season - Ronnie Walton
1991/1992 Season - Ronnie Walton
1990/1991 Season - Ronnie Walton
1989/1990 Season - Tommy Dixon
1988/1989 Season - 1st - Dave Clarke 2nd - Tommy Dixon
1987/1988 Season - Jim Pearson
1986/1987 Season - Jim Pearson
1985/1986 Season - 1st - Peter Feenan 2nd - Jim Pearson
1984/1985 Season - Peter Feenan
1983/1984 Season - 1st - John Connolly 2nd - Mick Dagless
1982/1983 Season - 1st - Bob Elwell 2nd - John Connolly
1981/1982 Season - Bob Elwell
1980/1981 Season - Jackie Marks
1979/1980 Season - Jackie Marks
1978/1979 Season - 1st - Brian Slane 2nd - Jackie Marks
1977/1978 Season - Brian Slane
1976/1977 Season - 1st - Alan O'Neill 2nd - Brian Slane
1975/1976 Season - Alan O'Neill
1974/1975 Season - Alan O'Neill
1973/1974 Season - Billy Bell
1972/1973 Season - Billy Bell
1971/1972 Season - Allan Jones
1970/1971 Season - Allan Jones
1969/1970 Season - Jackie Marks
1968/1969 Season - Jackie Marks
1967/1968 Season - 1st - Tony Knox 2nd - Jackie Marks
1966/1967 Season - Jim Turney
1965/1966 Season - Jim Turney
1964/1965 Season - Jim Turney
1963/1964 Season - Jim Turney
1962/1963 Season - Jim Turney
1961/1962 Season - Jim Turney
1960/1961 Season - Jim Turney
1959/1960 Season - Jim Turney
- East Northumberland League Champions 1903–04, 1905–06, 1906–07
- Northern Alliance League Champions 1908–09, 1912–13
- North Eastern League Champions 1935–36
- North Eastern League Cup Winners 1950–55
- Northern League Champions 1972–73, 1974–75, 1975–76, 1979–80, 1980–81, 1981–82, 1982–83, 1983–84, 1986–87, 1987–88
- Northern League Cup Winners 1972–73, 1977–78, 1978–79, 1984–85, 1991–92
- Northumberland Senior Cup Winners 1914, 1915, 1932, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1952, 1955, 1959, 1963, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1992, 1994
- Cairns Cup Winners 1905–06, 1906–07
- Tynemouth Infirmary Cup Winners 1908–09, 1909–10, 1932–33
- Tyne Charity Shield Winners 1913–14
- Tyne Charity Shield Joint Holders 1925–26
- Northumberland Aged Miners Homes Cup Winners 1909–10, 1911–12, 1919–20, 1936–37, 1938–39
- Northumberland Aged Miners Homes Cup Joint Holders 1920–21
- Debenhams Cup Winners 1978
- J.R. Cleator Memorial Cup Winners 1982, 1983, 1984, 1988, 1992
- Beamish Trophy Winners 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997
- Northern Premier League Premier Division Champions 2005–06
- Northern Premier League Division One Champions 1994–95
- Northern Premier League First Division Cup Winners 1994–95
- Northern Premier League President's Cup Winners 1996–97
- Northern Premier League Chairmans Cup Winners 2005–06
- Peter Swales Memorial Shield Winners 2005–06
- South Tyneside Football Benevolent Fund Gazette Cup Winners 1995–96
- "Blyth spirit stirred by Charlton the Younger", The Telegraph, 13 May 2001 Retrieved 2014-12-10.
- "Blyth Spartans AFC – A Brief History". www.blythspartansafc.co.uk. Archived from the original on 8 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-21.
- "Blyth Spartans AFC – Spartans Announce New Manager". www.blythspartansafc.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- Blyth Spartans Ladies FC
- Daily Mail 25 Feb 2014
- Brennan, Patrick. "Blyth Spartans Ladies FC". Retrieved 13 Dec 2014.
- BBC World War One at Home Croft Park, Newcastle: Blyth Spartans Ladies FC
- www.thejournal.co.uk Blyth Spartans Ladies football team to close
- "Blyth Spartans 3–1 Shrewsbury". http://news.bbc.co.uk. 8 November 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- "AFC Bournemouth 0–0 Blyth Spartans". soccernet-assets.espn.go.com. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- "Blyth Spartans 1–0 AFC Bournemouth". soccernet-assets.espn.go.com. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- Shea, Julian (5 January 2009). "Blyth Spartans 0–1 Blackburn Rovers". http://news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- "Blyth Spartans turn down Newcastle ground as they look for FA Cup home banker". www.mirror.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-12-16.
- "Blyth Spartans – League, FA Cup, FA Amateur Cup & FA Trophy records". www.fchd.info. Retrieved 2009-06-27.
- "Under Development". www.blythspartans.co.uk. Archived from the original on 1 November 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-14.
- "Centenary Match Arranged". www.blythspartans.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-06-22.
- "Player Pen Pics". Blyth Spartans A.F.C. Retrieved 2013-08-05.
- club honors
- Official Club website
- Supporters' website
- Ladies doing it for themselves about the Women's Team
- Blyth Spartans at the Football Club History Database