And the managerial merry go round continues

After a week of speculation, it’s now been finally confirmed that manager Jon Shaw has been relieved of his duties.

If any of you had the chance to speak to Jon or even say hello, you’ll know he was an extremely nice bloke who always had time for people. I think it’s fair to say he impressed most of us when he came into the club last summer, and it seemed as though we’d picked up a bit of a gem after his first few weeks in charge of the club.

Sadly though, things have not worked out for Jon and we find ourselves on the lookout for our 3rd manager within the last 12 months. We’d like to thank Jon for his efforts at Spartans over the last 12 months and wish him all the best for the future.

You could argue that Jon deserved a chance to set things right with is own squad on the NPL, but clearly ownership felt differently – and want to have a total refresh this summer.

With that all being said, let’s get into a list of potential replacements that would make sense for Blyth. Some of these managers may be in rather comfortable positions but for me, they’re the sort of managers we should be going for if we’re looking to have a proper reset this summer. So, without further ado…

Nathan Haslam – Whitby Town

A well-respected Tyneside based manager; Haslam would be considered a young manager at just 43 years old. He has however he has been involved in club management for over 10 years, having previously manged Marske United, Bishop Auckland and Whitley Bay before joining Whitby in 2020 – so it’s safe to say he’s got more than enough experience to take the Blyth job on.

Haslam led Whitby Town to the FA Cup 1st round this season, where they were defeated by Bristol Rovers after overcoming National League South side Chelmsford City in the previous round. He also led Whitby Town to a 12th place finish in the NPL this season with a fairly modest budget for that level, while attracting some entertaining flair players in Nathan Thomas, Stephen Walker and Junior Mondal.

Late in pre-season of 2023, Haslam’s Whitby side came up to Blyth and quite frankly bullied us. They were aggressive and completely out played a rather strong Spartans side. They played some good entertaining football but certainly weren’t afraid to play a bit of long ball football when needed.

A character who naturally commands respect, Haslam could be the man to build the club back up from the ashes. As a former agent, Nathan will no doubt have plenty of connections at just about every level of football as well.

He has just signed a 2 year deal with Whitby Town at the back end of March, but I’ve no doubt if both sides want the move – a deal could be worked out.

Alun Armstrong – Unemployed

A man who needs no introduction, Alun of course won the Northern Premier League Premier Division in his first season as Spartans manager and led us to the National League North play offs, before he jumped ship to Darlington in 2019. Despite being hampered by COVID, he led Darlington to the FA Cup 1st in 2019/20 and then the 2nd round during the 2020/21 campaign.

After a poor start to the 2021/22 season where he found himself under some immense pressure, he managed to turn it around and pull together a new squad that then challenged for the title in 2022/23 season. They of course ended up falling away from contention and Alun was sacked in August 2023.

Alun and Blyth reuniting would certainly be an interesting scenario. Last time he joined Blyth he inherited a very good Spartans team and just needed to add a bit quality to solidify us as a top National League North side, so the idea of him coming in and having to completely rebuild the team is certainly intriguing one.

Though Alun (allegedly) did like to send his CV about while managing at Blyth, he did have the lads playing a really attractive style of football and gave us all some great memories. The idea of running it back is somewhat appealing, if Alun has the resources to bring in the right players.

Chris Swailes – Unemployed

Another familiar face, Swaz left Dunston UTS just about 12 months ago after a successful 7 years as manager. Across that time, he managed to win the Northern League in 2019, winning ‘Manager of the Year’ in the process while putting together an absolutely solid team in what is now the NPL East.

On top of that, he also guided them to a Northern League Cup and took them to the 4th qualifying round of the FA Cup, which is the furthest the club has ever gone in that competition.

A vastly experienced player, coach and manager – Swailes is certainly a strong character who would be able to completely reset the football club and put us back on track. Given his long history in football, he’d no doubt have plenty of contacts as well.

Swaz did leave Dunston for what were described as ‘personal reasons’ at the end of the 2022/23 season, and of course we’ve no idea what those reasons are. However, if he is interested in getting back into football management with more or less a blank canvas, Blyth would be a good opportunity for him to do just that.

Chris Hardy – Bishop Auckland

It’s unlikely Hardy will want to leave Bishop Auckland, given that he has just won the Northern League 1st division – however if Spartans have a good budget sorted out for next season, Hardy may be tempted.

Taking charge of Guisborough Town back in early 2008, he led them back into the first tier of the Northern League during the 2010/11 season, after they finished runners up in the Northern League’s second tier. North Riding Senior Cup victories came in 2011 and 2014 as well.

During the 2013/14 season he led Guisborough to 4th place in the Northern League’s top division, as they netted 100 goals in the league thanks to Danny Johnson and Mickey Roberts – with Hardy implementing a free-flowing attacking style of football.

In December 2015 he made the jump to Whitby, and he took his entertaining brand of football with him. In his first full season at Whiby he guided them to 6th place, just missing out on the play offs. A poor season the year after would follow as they lost key playmaker Dale Hopson, however they did bounce back and finish in 11th place in the 2018/19 season.

In 2020 he resigned as Whitby manager but re-entered football management in 2021 with Bishop Auckland. In his first full season at The Two Blues he led them to a 3rd place finish, before eventually winning promotion this season – with Bishop Auckland only losing twice this season in the league.

Again, Hardy would be taking a bit risk in leaving Bishop Auckland for Blyth – but if he’s up for the challenge, he could be another wise appointment. Experienced and known for playing good football, we could do a lot worse than him.

Daniel Moore – Hebburn Town

Another unlikely appointment given Hebburn’s rise in recent years, Moore was a well-respected player for years in the Northern League – winning the FA Vase with Spennymoor Town back in 2013 as well as several Northern League titles.

He took charge of Shildon in the Northern League in January 2017, and racked up a 59% win rate during his 223 games in charge. After leading them to a JR Cleator Cup and a Durham Challenge Cup win, he left the club in 2022 to take the job at Hebburn Town.

In his first season at Hebburn he led them to the play offs in the NPL East, though they would fall to Long Eaton United in the semi’s on penalties. This year though they managed to win promotion to the NPL Premier Division as champions, snatching the title from Stockton Town on the final day of the season.

Hebburn reportedly have a good budget and clearly have a good set up, so I’d highly doubt Moore will want to move on from them right now. He is a young manager that’s clearly on the rise though, and he’ll no doubt get a top job in non-league football in the very near future if he manages to establish Hebburn Town in the NPL Premier Division this season.

Michael Dunwell – Stockton Town

The man behind Stockon’s rise over the last decade, Dunwell has led Stockton from the depths of the Wearside League to the verge of the NPL Premier Division over the last 10 years. Across those 10 years, Dunwell has won 9 trophies as Stockton manager as well.

With the demise of Norton and Stockton Ancients in the early 2010’s, Stockton Town began to rise up in their place with Dunwell at the helm. After winning the Wearside Legue 3 times on the bounce between 2014 and 2016, they were finally promoted to the Northern League 2nd Division – which they won at the first time of asking.

COVID put a holt to their progress, though they would end up being promoted in 2021 due their league record – and they’ve made quite the impact in the NPL East, despite letting the title slip from their grasp this season. He also led them to Wembley in 2018, where they lost 1-0 in the FA Vase final

Dunwell may be difficult to snag, as he’s obviously well entrenched at what is his local club. He’s built up a brilliant team of players at Stockton over the years and if they win promotion from the play off’s, I doubt he’ll want to walk away from that set up.

Tommy Miller – Unemployed

Originally he wasn’t on this list, but as he’s already been linked with the job – he’s worth talking about.

The experienced pro linked up with Spennymoor in 2016 and essentially became the heir apparent to Jason Ainsley at Spenny. He’d get his chance to manage in 2021 when Ainsley stepped aside, but he’d be gone by the November of that season after a poor run in the league and the cups.

He briefly spent time with Buxton as an assistant manager before linking up with South Shields last summer, though he’d be shown the door along with Julio Arca in December after Blyth put Shields to the sword on Boxing Day.

A move for Miller would be interesting one, as he is yet to succeed anywhere as a manager yet. He’ll certainly have connections that’s for sure, but for a club that needs a full reboot on and off the pitch, personally I don’t know if he’s the right man to do just that – especially with so many other options out there right now.

Simply put, for me we need a proven and successful manager at the helm and unfortunately for Miller, he isn’t that just yet.

The others

This is where things might start to get a bit daft. Then again the Blyth Spartans rumour mill is one of the craziest things in football.

I have seen a few people mention Graham Fenton’s name in the last 12 hours and even in the weeks before the season ended. As a fan of Fents, I wouldn’t be apposed to his return, but it seems like he’s done with football management now. For now away.

Craig Lynch has done a canny job at Morpeth in recent years, and they haven’t been as free spending as they used to be. That being said, he doesn’t seem to have really done anything that makes him really stand out as a prime candidate, as Morpeth haven’t really stood out in the NPL lately.

A bit of a daft one yes but two people have already asked about him, incredibly. Nobby Solano was seen at the Darlington game in the company of Steve Howard the other month and he does have an on/off record in football management. He did start his coaching career off Benfield back in the day as well. A move for Nobby would be a massive PR pull, but I just get terrible Lee Clark vibes when thinking about it. Minus the copious amounts of wine of course. Frankly, a PR circus is not what we need right now.

As for Craig Elliot, he’s sent his CV in a few times in the past. Now a free agent after leaving Buxton, he’s an experienced NLN manager but he’s based too far down the country, and would likely jump ship at the first sight of a better job.

The verdict

Personally, I just can’t look past Nathan Haslam. For me we need to someone with a strong character who’s tactically astute and who frankly, won’t take any shit. Haslam feels like the man that might just be able to come in and stabilise the club, pull together a decent squad and set us up for a return to the National League North.

Moore, Dunwell and Hardy will all likely be looking to continue their projects with their respected clubs – though I wouldn’t be apposed to any of them coming in of course. Swailes and Armstrong may need some persuasion and financial guarantees in respect of the playing budget, and again either one of those would go down well with supporters.

Whatever happens though, the ownership needs to get this appointment bang on. The club needs a strong manager who’s willing put some work in to get this club back on track, all while being able to attract some good players in. Which is why for me, Haslam is the man.