Clarky’s at the wheel – Part 1

Ever wondered what happened to Lee Clark’s 40+ Spartans he used in just about 7 Month?… no? Wey tough shit.

Joe Robson (June 2019 – November 2019)

One of Lee Clark’s first signings, Joe was one of the group of players that arrived from Newcastle Benfield in early June of 2019. Joe came through at Carlisle, spent some time at Gateshead before making appearances for North Shields and then Newcastle Benfield. Playing throughout the middle of the park and even at right back, Joe would only get a few chances to shine in a Blyth shirt (some from the bench) before leaving the club in November that same year, where he returned to Benfield as has been there ever since.

Jake Orrell (June 2019 – September 2019)

The man who arrived alongside Robson, the all-round attacking midfielder was at Sunderland as a youngster but start his career at Gateshead, where he made 6 appearances off the bench in 2015. That summer he moved onto Chesterfield, getting some game time in the Football League. When released he moved onto to Hartlepool but never got any game time. He did agree a loan spell with Spenny in late February of 2017, but that loan would be cancelled due to complications with the registration.

He was released by Pools in the summer of 2017 and linked up with Spennymoor, this time getting approval to sign. Jake played 11 times for The Moors before cancelling his contract and moving onto Newcastle Benfield, where spent 18 or so Months making 52 appearances and scoring 16 league goals. He featured in 10 of the opening 13 games at Spartans but left without making a real impact as he requested his release in late September. Clark said at the time “Jake came to see me about leaving. I was disappointed but if anyone wants to play at a lower level then they have not got the ambition I want.” Not exactly very diplomatic from Lee.

Since leaving Blyth he’s been one of Consett’s main men, playing a key role in an FA Vase run (where he’d be injured in the final) and promotion to the Pitching In Northern Premier East league.

Anthony Callaghan (June 2019 – June 2020)

A Sunderland youth graduate, Anth was released in the summer of 2013 and was picked up by West Auckland. He quickly made the switch to Sunderland RCA where he impressed and was picked up by Whitby in 2014, where he would have an impressive spell but would end the season at Washington. Thankfully for Anth though he was spotted by Darlington, who at the time were on the rise through the Evo-Stik leagues.

In 2016 he made the switch to South Shields, where in his first season he was impressive for Graham Fenton’s side, but that was sadly stifled as he suffered a back fracture and that required spinal surgery. Clark snapped him up quicky in the summer of 2019 knowing his injuries had at that point cleared up. Sadly for Anth his time at Croft Park would be blighted by niggling injuries, where he would spend a fair bit of time on the treatment table.

In the summer of 2020 once the covid restrictions were lifted, Anth was one of the flock of players released by new manager Micky Nelson. Since leaving Blyth he’s bounced around the Northern League with Sunderland RCA, Thornaby, Bishop Auckland and Newton Aycliffe. Having a had a few pints with Anth and his Dad in the club a few times, I know he was one of the players who was genuinely gutted with how poor we were that season. A very nice bloke who’s career was badly effected due to various injuries.

Rhys Evans (June 19 – Present)

Somehow out of the 40+ players we went through, he’s still here! Spending some time at Sunderland as a youngster, Rhys would start his career at St Johnstone of all places, spending only a season there but was released (probably for being too short) and moved onto Queen Of The South where he’d spend two seasons. Apart from taking part in some really weird press shots, I don’t think he made a senior appearance.

Moving back to the North East aged 21, he signed up to Washington in the Northern League before quickly making the jump to Newcastle Benfield in November 2017. He would make 46 appearances in the league (and scored a belter of an OG in the FA Cup at Workington) before being picked up by Spartans on a recommendation from a former manager. He would be Blyth’s starting right-back as Clark’s team struggled early on and players were switched in and out, probably making it a bit difficult to get any sort of cohesion together.

Despite the team’s poor form and all the comings and goings, Rhys would remain at Spartans until the end of Lee’s reign. Which was as a surprise as (and i’ll say this as politely as I possibly can) I don’t know if Rhys was Mr Clark’s favourite in the team. Of course, Rhys would only be a handful of players kept on by Micky Nelson in the summer of 2020, being the first to sign a deal that summer. As we all know that weird half season didn’t go to plan, as he was one of the players who missed some games due to Covid and had a bad time with the aftereffects of it.

Once again Nels would have a clear out, with Rhys again being one of only a few players signed on for the 2021/22 season which at first started well but went to shit pretty soon after. Under Nels and then Terry Mitchell, Rhys would go onto feature in 17 league games due to picking up the odd injury on the way but would make the starting XI in the Northumberland Senior Cup final victory over Newcastle.

Now Rhys is signed up for his 4th season at Spartans, he’s officially our longest serving player! Not many would have thought that way back in the day, but you won’t find many more loyal than him who works harder (unless he’s injured after a weekend with Cal Roberts). A cult hero and a terrace favourite, he’ll likely be around for a while (unlike his hairline).

Dale Pearson (June 2019 – August 2019)

From memory I don’t think we actually gave Dale a proper press release when we signed him. Think we just mentioned that he’d been registered before signing him to a proper contract in the July following a strong pre-season, before cancelling it just a month later. Certainly an odd and short and career path at Spartans and it may be worth speculating that Dale wasn’t Lee Clark’s favourite (you’ll notice a common theme here).

Dale’s career path is a tad unclear, but from my research he started at West Allotment Celtic before a switch to Dunston, and then Morpeth Town where he won the FA Vase. A move to Blyth Town in the summer of 2016 followed before moving onto Ashington and Newcastle Benfield where he was a prolific goal scorer. After his brief spell at Blyth the striker scored 67 goals in 84 appearances at Consett, including a goal at Wembley in the FA Vase final.

He was rumoured to have turned down an offer from Spartans this summer, choosing to sign for Morpeth Town instead.

James Martin (June 2019 – June 2019)

So aye, no idea who this lad is. Announced he’d signed forms along with Dale and then a few days later apparently u-turned on the move. Think he’s at Consett now but I don’t know and don’t really care. NEXT.

Tom Devitt (June 2019 – June 2020)

One of few players to survive the full season, so he mustn’t have been that terrible. After a few seasons at Lionsbridge FC in the USA, Tom made the switch to the Goats in 2018, where he’d be part of that infamous side that only had about 14 players at one point, and where Joe Cala tried to run the club into the ground.

Leaving in the summer of 2019 to join up with Clark, he said “When someone with the pedigree of Lee gets in touch with you it is impossible to ignore. Everything he has said from the off really made me excited and want to come here.” The poor fool. Tom would start the vast majority of games and was considered one of the better players in the defence (not a high benchmark but still) before leaving in 2020 and linking up with Stranraer. Due to Covid he would only feature in 7 games and moved to Hebburn in 2021 where he’s become a mainstay of the team.

Michael Sweet (June 2019 – February 2020)

Sweety came through at Gateshead college before getting his first break at Billingham Synthonia in 2013. He would score a few goals in a first season but would become a breakout star in his second with 17 goals, which secured him a move to Consett. His spell at Consett would see him nearly grab 100 goals, where he would be linked with Spartans on multiple occasions before finally making the move.

Sadly Sweet’s time at Blyth would disappoint, with him only managing to grab 1 league goal. Another one who’s rumoured to have not been a favourite of Lee Clark. He switched to Shildon on loan in the February and made the move permanent that Summer. Since then he’s been a solid player at Dean Street for a number of managers.

Mark Foden (June 2019 – December 2019)

Jesus, where to start with this one. Prior to his move to Blyth, Mark came through at Hartlepool United as youngster, then moved back up north to Scotland where he was a back up goalkeeper at Ross County, Stirling Albion and Stenhousemuir. He’d then return to the North East to sign for Steve Watson’s Gateshead. Mark featured on loan once for Spartans in March of 2019 and had quite possibly one of the worst displays any of us have seen in a Spartans shirt. So when we signed him properly just Months after it was met with some ridicule. Clark mentioned when signing him “I spoke to Steve (Watson) his ex-manager and he couldn’t recommend him highly enough, he even said that he’d have been a potential target had they not signed Peter (Jameson). I know he had a game on loan here and unfortunately it did not go his way on the day – but that’s football. I have seen him on a number of occasions and it’s important to judge a player over a whole season, not just one game. It was exacerbated by his position, a midfielder can make 10 bad passes a game, a defender can make a mistake, but when a goalkeeper makes an error it usual results in a goal”.

Sadly for Lee, Mark and all of us he was very wrong. After a rather poor pre-season campaign it was announced he was injured, then out of the blue he joined Consett as the injury was apparently ‘not as bad as first anticipated’. He’d return after a few weeks. He and Nathan Harker would constantly fail to establish themselves and after Foden conceded 4 horrendous goals away at Kettering, he was dropped and never returned to the team. He was allowed to move onto Hebburn where he’d spend a few seasons as first choice before moving onto Consett this summer.