Fan/Media/Bus Organiser Q&A – Martin Hunter

I think you’ve been following Spartans for a fair few years now. What was it that got you hooked at a younger age?

I was about 8 for my first game, a family friend brought me to a match, and I loved it (we hammed someone about 6-1 which probably helped) – I then started coming to the games occasionally with my mates when I was about 13 and then it became an obsession around the time we played Southport in the FA Cup. I then went away to university and took in the occasional game over there (I was at uni in Preston) and then started to be going to the home and away games once I graduated.

Favourite awayday stories from your time following Spartans?

My favourite trip was the Bournemouth away game – A genuinely wonderful weekend away – There’s a picture of everyone celebrating at full time and everyone in it is a proper Spartans fan – I had it pinned on the noticeboard in my office at work and it always made me smile. The most heart stopping one was Leek Town away in the FA Cup – a game that Hollywood would deem to be too unbelievable – an amazing game Honest thoughts on how the season is going so far and what we need to help improve the squad? It has been a bit of mess – I thought the squad needed a major overhaul in the summer and it never really came, the preseason seemed a bit a joke and we’ve been struggling and playing catch up, as a result, ever since. I have faith in Fen though, I thought he was excellent the first time he was here and have confidence that he’ll get us to a much better place, if he is given the tools to do the job.

As a fellow bus organiser, what would you say were the highs and lows from your times running busses, and do you have any stand out stories?

I enjoyed it most of the time, we had some great trips and I really used to look forward them – I always used to dread the phone calls from the bus company on the Monday morning with the bill for any damage though – “You need to pay for a replacement curtain as the other one has been … damaged”, then you’d find out later how it was damaged… hangs head in shame.

The Burscough away trip at the end of Harry’s final season was the one that stands out – we’d managed to rescue ourselves from a dire position in the league to achieve safety and it was a party bus full of homemade rhubarb wine, sing songs, overflowing toilets, tales of historical enactments, cans galore and people being (thankfully incorrectly) declared dead on the A19 in South Shields… My personal favourite was probably the fancy dress trip to Marine (the Harry’s Tache day) it felt like we were an unstoppable force at that time and promotion seemed inevitable – Everything at the club at the time was heading like a cannonball in the right direction.

All time Spartans XI and why?

Goalkeeper – Adam Bartlett We’ve been blessed with some great keepers in my time watching Blyth, but Barts is definitely the best I have seen – He should have definitely played at a higher level than he did and was also a genuinely nice lad.

Right Back – Michael Farrey I always thought he was exactly what a full back should be – Quick, defensively strong, could tackle, tidy on the ball, good going forward, scored winners against Gateshead, etc.

Centre Backs – Chris Swailes & John Gamble Both brave as lions, commanding, strong, good for a goal and hard as nails – Nice lads off the pitch, but warriors on it.

Left Back – Michael Liddle Always a position I struggle with as I don’t think we’ve had a superb one (lots of poor ones haha) but he’s probably the best I have seen

Centre Midfield – Chris McCabe Tadge is exactly the type of player I love – Could tackle, run for days, never backed away from a challenge, scored goals, real fire in his belly and another nice lad off the pitch as well – Always rated the chef!

Centre Midfield – Stephen Turnbull Most naturally gifted footballer I’ve seen at the Spartans, when you see a player take a decent corner with his left foot from one side and his right from the other side you know he’s a bit special. He was as comfortable as a pair of old trainers in the midfield and had a real winner’s mentality – the free kick at Hartlepool, rightly, cements in him Spartans folklore.

Attacking Centre Midfield – Cal Roberts The best player I have seen at this level (for any club) – it was like he’d been dropped from space – absolutely ridiculous – He scored a goal of the season contender about three times a game.

Left Winger – Robbie Dale The GOAT

Right Winger – Richie Bond My first proper Spartans hero – the kind of outrageously talented winger you could watch for ever – scored important goals and had a proper hero complex – I love that he still comes to the games and seems to enjoy the adulation he quite rightly gets

Centre Forward – Glen Robson Another of my Spartans heroes – lethal and looked a constant threat in some pretty rubbish teams – Sadly ruined through injuries (and let’s face it a horrendous temper…) but would have scored an absolute hatful in Harry or Al’s team

As a former media bod (sort of) who were the best players/managers to deal with?

Most of the players/managers have been really good to deal with to be honest, as they realise that it’s part of the job and part of being at a club like the Spartans. I know he gets a lot of stick (and rightly so haha) but the best manager to deal with was probably Steve Cuggy – He kept me informed of all of the news and let me know about the majority of the comings and goings before it happened so I would be ready for the signings and was always a pleasure to deal with (I’ll let you guess the only time he didn’t tell me of a departure? – albeit he rang afterwards to apologise but knew that as me and Robbie are friends it wouldn’t have been fair on me to have known before everyone).

The only manager that we’ve had, who I didn’t like dealing with was Tommy Cassidy – I was delighted when he left the club. As for players, again the vast majority have been really good – We had two players who initially refused to have Player Profile Pictures taken (Martin Brittain and Guy Bates) but if it was anything else I just used to pick players who I thought would do it no questions asked – Lads like Pricey, Ste and Damo would almost be offended if you asked someone else, so you usually just end up asking lads like them.

Any funny/interesting stories you can give us from your time in said role?

When we signed Darryl Donnelly and Dan Maguire I got an email from Ian Evans with their details (age, position, former club, etc) – this is how I was informed about the signings at the time – I rang Tommy Cassidy (see above) to get his views on the players, so I could include them in the press release – After explaining who I was to him for about the 30th time he told me we’d only signed one player (Donnelly) – “what is he like?” I asked, “I’ll not lie, he’s shit” was the reply, after telling him I couldn’t write that in a formal press release, I asked more questions “He’s not tall, he’s not quick, he can’t tackle, he can’t pass …. I don’t know why I’ve signed him to be honest” – I then asked about Nipa “I couldn’t tell you if he’s tall, short, black or white – Never seen him – Don’t worry about announcing him, he’ll never play for club”.

Lastly, how would you like to see the club improve in the near future and what changes would you like to see?

Usual stuff – Better communication, better match day experience, better screen in the clubhouse, better food options – But I think we all want the same thing and that is a better team.