Anth your *checks notes*… an older gentleman, what’s your first memories of following Spartans as a youngster?
Cheeky sod. Ok fair enough, I’ve got half a century of supporting Spartans under my belt. As you can imagine, many highs & lows in that time. A while back , I scoured through Ken Sproat’s excellent history of Blyth Spartans to see if I could pinpoint my first game. I couldn’t, but the first game I can definitely remember being at was a friendly we had with Leeds United in December 1972. Leeds included Joe Jordan & Gordon McQueen in their team that day. My next big memory was the FA Cup game with Preston North End in 1974, Preston featuring Bobby Charlton & Nobby Stiles amongst others.
Obviously you’ve seen a few generations of players and staff. Who makes your Blyth Spartans all time XI and why? Including a manager?
I find this kind of thing really difficult. I don’t have the best memory for players & seeing so many over different eras. There is an argument for naming the entire 77/78 team. As a team unit, I would say they were the best we’ve seen. To make it a bit more interesting, I’ve tried to name a team not including any of that team.
Peter Jameson, Craig Liddle, Alan Walker, Dave Mitchinson, John Gamble, Stephen Turnbull, Paul Walker, Nigel Walker, Robert Dale, Brian Slane, Steve Pyle. Manager, Harry Dunn.
My 2 all time favourites Spartans are Brian Slane & Rob Dale. Brian was the first player I idolised as a kid, a hard, physical centre-forward scoring goals for fun. Whilst he did feature in the early rounds of the 77/78 season, I have included him for the years prior to that. Rob was the ultimate entertainer & also with his longevity with the Club, will always be a Club legend. The others all stand out for me as outstanding players at different points of my time watching. There are so many others that could be included; Les Mutrie, Scott Bell, Ritchie Bond, Bobby Scaife & if we had had him longer, I reckon Cal Roberts would have been in with a shout. As Manager, you can’t go past the hairy lipped legend!
You’ve obviously been involved with the Supporters Club for a long time now. What’s the achievements/accomplishments your most proud of within your role?
I have utmost respect for anyone who gives up their time as a volunteer in any capacity. I have been with the Supporters Club coming up 18 years! I have mainly played a supporting role, looking after the finances. During that time I have volunteered alongside some good people at various times, who gave up a lot of time to help out the Club. Back in the early days printing, copying & collating & stapling the programme manually & running the shop. Later, a full shop re-furb with new stock lines. The increasing importance of the online store. Developing new kit designs (big shout out to Herty).
Any funny awayday stories you can give us from back in the day?
The best away days have nearly always revolved around FA Cup away days & overnighters! Blackpool, Bury, Stockport, Bournemouth. Also the League winning day at Harrogate. We had some great laughs & a lot of stress when running the away travel (too many stories to mention) & some fantastic characters over the years. One story, from many years back was the first time I met Kev Little. Me lying flat on my back outside the Clubhouse at Matlock! I maintain it was slippy, but I did need his help to get back on my feet!
You spent 3 years as Spartans General Manager, what did the role entail exactly and what are your proudest moments in the role? Any good/funny stories you can give us from behind the scenes?
The role basically entailed all the day to day administration of the Club, bookkeeping, dealing with other Clubs, The FA & The League. All football administration, fixtures & including players wages, registrations & contracts. A lot of people understandably, don’t realise what goes into running the Club & the time given up by a lot of people. I wouldn’t necessarily say there was anything I was proud of particularly, but my favourite time would have to be the run to the play offs & the most disappointing, the weeks that followed that.
In the long run, what’s the plan for the supporters club to keep on developing like it has in recent years?
It’s hard to say. I would say we aren’t really a ‘Supporters Club’ as such any longer, effectively we run the shop (both physical & online), which is quite time consuming in itself. There are only 4 or 5 of us involved & we have been doing it for some time now. We don’t have a membership as such. I think ‘Green Army’ have taken on some of that element, whilst being ’independent’ of the Club, which is great.
Lastly, how would you like to see the club improve in the near future and what changes would you like to see?
There are many things that could take us forward. A lot of people would mention facilities etc, which is all fine, but for me the important thing is what happens on the pitch. I look forward to many more great football memories.