Blyth Spartans A.F.C.

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Blyth Spartans
BlythSpartans.png
Full name Blyth Spartans Association Football Club
Nickname(s) The Spartans, Green Army
Founded September 1899; 117 years ago (1899-09)
Ground Croft Park, Blyth
Ground Capacity 4,435 (556 seated)
Chairman Tony Platten
Manager Alun Armstrong
League Northern Premier League Premier Division
2015–16 Northern Premier League Premier Division, 2nd
Current season

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 Alun Armstrong.

They were founded in September 1899 by Fred Stoker, 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.

History[edit]

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[edit]

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)[1] 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[edit]

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.[2]

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.[3]

Paul Brayson lines up a free kick for Blyth

Relegation and Decline[edit]

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[4] before losing 2–0 to rivals Gateshead.[5] 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.[6] On 8 March the news broke that Paddy Atkinson had resigned as manager.[7]

Tom Wade era[edit]

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 Arran Wearmouth signed from Bishop Auckland for a fee of £1500. In the 2014–15 season, the Spartans would, under Tom Wade's leadership, go on to win the Northumberland Senior Cup and play against Championship side Birmingham City in the third Round Proper of the FA Cup.

In the 2015-16 season, despite frustrating displays in almost every cup competition the Spartans played, the club proved to be the dominant side in their league. However, even having reached the impressive 99-point mark, they were beaten to the title by Darlington 1883 and lost the play-off semi-final to Workington A.F.C. which ended 4-3 to the away team.[8] Ten days later, Blyth lost again by the same scoreline, 4-3, this time to Northern League side North Shields in the Northumberland Senior Cup Final at St. James's Park.[9]

After a heavy 4-2 home defeat to Morpeth Town in the 2016-17 FA Cup, Tom resigned from his post after receiving some very harsh treatment from some fans. Former professional footballer Alun Armstrong took over the managerial position.

Women's Football[edit]

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.[10][11] The team was never beaten, playing 30 matches, winning 26 and drawing 4.[12][13]

In 2001 a Blyth Spartans Ladies team was again formed, but despite considerable success closed in 2009.[14]

FA Cup exploits[edit]

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 and fifth rounds once.

1977/78[edit]

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,[2] meaning they missed out on a home tie with Arsenal.

1980/81[edit]

In 1980, Blyth played Hull City in the 2nd round which saw two replays, the final of which was played at Leeds United's Elland Road.

1995/96[edit]

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.

1997/98[edit]

In 1997–98 under the managership of John Burridge, Blyth travelled to Second Division side Blackpool. A memorable 1st round proper game saw Blackpool run out 4–3 winners with a last minute winner.

2008/09[edit]

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.[15]

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.[16][17]

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.[18][19][20]

2014/15[edit]

In 2014, the Spartans once again went all the way from the first qualifying round into the third round proper. In the first qualifying round, Blyth drew 0–0 at Darlington 1883 and won 3–0 at home with a goal from Robbie Dale and a brace from Dan Maguire.[21] Blyth were then drawn to Skelmersdale United away. Despite a poor league record, Blyth went on rampage to win 4–1.[22] The Green Army had to once again travel to watch the Spartans as they were drawn away at Mickleover Sports. After 90 minutes of play during which it seemed there was going to be a replay at Croft Park, Jarrett Rivers scored an injury time goal to send the Spartans into the fourth qualifying round.[23] The draw away at Leek Town meant another long trip for the Blyth supporters. Blyth won 4–3 after a cracking game which included an injury time penalty miss by Leek's Kinsey.[24]

In the first round proper, Blyth were drawn at home to Altrincham. That was their first home draw in the 2014–15 FA Cup. The home crowd of 1,763 saw a performance that at times brought doubts as to which team was two levels above the other. Braces from Dale and Maguire left the fans delighted with a 4–1 win that would take Blyth to the Second Round Proper for the fourteenth time in their history.[25]

In the second round proper, Blyth travelled along the North Coast to Hartlepool United. The League Two side controlled the game in the first half but a magnificent free-kick by Turnbull and yet another ninetieth-minute goal by Jarrett Rivers turned the game around for Blyth. The memorable upset was shown live on the BBC.

Blyth were drawn at home against Birmingham City, which was controversially described by Stephen Turnbull as “a bit of an anti-climax”,[26] for he and every Spartans supporter hoped for a Premier League club. After two Nikola Žigić chances for the Blues, Blyth took control of the match and Dale scored twice in the first half. Blyth had a 2–0 lead at the interval and hopes for another Spartans’ FA Cup upset were gigantic. Luis Figo famously started to follow the official Blyth Spartans Twitter feed.[27] However, Birmingham would go on to score three goals in six minutes to end the North East side’s hopes of reaching the fourth round for the second time.[28]

Notable FA Cup games[edit]

  • 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 1: Blyth Spartans 4–1 Altrincham
  • 2014–15 Round 2: Hartlepool United 1–2 Blyth Spartans
  • 2014–15 Round 3: Blyth Spartans 2–3 Birmingham City

Stadium[edit]

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.[2]

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.[29]

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.[30]

Current squad[edit]

As of 25 March 2017.[31]

Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.

No. Position Player
England GK Shaun MacDonald (on loan from Gateshead)
England GK Adam McHugh
England GK Paul Woolston (on loan from Newcastle United)
England DF David Atkinson
England DF Chris Bell
England DF Nathan Buddle
England DF Andrew Cartwright
England DF Ryan Hutchinson
Republic of Ireland DF Michael Liddle
England DF Richard Pell
Northern Ireland DF Jordan Watson
No. Position Player
England MF Neal Hooks
England MF David McTiernan
England MF Damon Mullen
South Africa MF Matty Pattison
England MF Sean Reid
England MF Jarrett Rivers
England FW Luke Armstrong
England FW Robert Dale
England FW Jordan Laidler
England FW Daniel Maguire
England FW Adam Wrightson

Notable former players[edit]

Managers – past & present[edit]

Honours[edit]

  • 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, 2015
  • 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[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Blyth spirit stirred by Charlton the Younger", The Telegraph, 13 May 2001 Retrieved 10 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Blyth Spartans AFC – A Brief History". www.blythspartansafc.co.uk. Archived from the original on 8 April 2007. Retrieved 21 May 2007. 
  3. ^ "Blyth Spartans AFC – Spartans Announce New Manager". www.blythspartansafc.co.uk. Retrieved 7 June 2009. 
  4. ^ "www.blythspartansafc.co.uk - Web site hosted by Freeola.com". 
  5. ^ "BBC Sport - Blyth Spartans 0-2 Gateshead". 
  6. ^ "www.blythspartansafc.co.uk - Web site hosted by Freeola.com". 
  7. ^ "www.blythspartansafc.co.uk - Web site hosted by Freeola.com". 
  8. ^ "www.blythspartansafc.co.uk - Web site hosted by Freeola.com". 
  9. ^ "www.blythspartansafc.co.uk - Web site hosted by Freeola.com". 
  10. ^ "Blyth Spartans Ladies FC". 
  11. ^ "Britain's female footballers kept pitch spirits high during Great War". 
  12. ^ Brennan, Patrick. "Blyth Spartans Ladies FC". Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  13. ^ BBC World War One at Home Croft Park, Newcastle: Blyth Spartans Ladies FC
  14. ^ www.thejournal.co.uk Blyth Spartans Ladies football team to close
  15. ^ "Blyth Spartans 3–1 Shrewsbury". BBC Sport. 8 November 2008. Retrieved 7 June 2009. 
  16. ^ "AFC Bournemouth 0–0 Blyth Spartans". soccernet-assets.espn.go.com. Retrieved 7 June 2009. 
  17. ^ "Blyth Spartans 1–0 AFC Bournemouth". soccernet-assets.espn.go.com. Retrieved 7 June 2009. 
  18. ^ Shea, Julian (5 January 2009). "Blyth Spartans 0–1 Blackburn Rovers". BBC Sport. Retrieved 7 June 2009. 
  19. ^ "Blyth Spartans turn down Newcastle ground as they look for FA Cup home banker". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 16 December 2008. 
  20. ^ "Blyth Spartans – League, FA Cup, FA Amateur Cup & FA Trophy records". www.fchd.info. Retrieved 27 June 2009. 
  21. ^ "www.blythspartansafc.co.uk - Web site hosted by Freeola.com". 
  22. ^ "www.blythspartansafc.co.uk - Web site hosted by Freeola.com". 
  23. ^ "www.blythspartansafc.co.uk - Web site hosted by Freeola.com". 
  24. ^ "www.blythspartansafc.co.uk - Web site hosted by Freeola.com". 
  25. ^ "www.blythspartansafc.co.uk - Web site hosted by Freeola.com". 
  26. ^ Kendrick, Mat (2 January 2015). "Birmingham City manager Gary Rowett shrugs off Blyth Spartans 'anti-climax' comments ahead of FA Cup challenge". 
  27. ^ Thomas-Mason, Lee (3 January 2015). "The magic of the FA Cup leads to Luis Figo following Blyth Spartans on Twitter". Daily Mirror. 
  28. ^ "www.blythspartansafc.co.uk - Web site hosted by Freeola.com". 
  29. ^ "Under Development". www.blythspartans.co.uk. Archived from the original on 1 November 2007. Retrieved 14 September 2007. 
  30. ^ "Centenary Match Arranged". www.blythspartans.co.uk. Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  31. ^ "Player Pen Pics". Blyth Spartans A.F.C. Retrieved 23 October 2016. 
  32. ^ "www.blythspartansafc.co.uk - Web site hosted by Freeola.com". 

External links[edit]