Dropping in to do the first Fan Q&A for a long while is Spartans stalwart Kev Walker. Often found getting lost on various trains across the North of England and beyond on a Saturday, Kev is terrace favourite and can always be seen in some dapper gear (or dressed as a nun) while sporting his famous beard cheering on Spartans.
Q) First memories from Spartans and first hero/favourite/idol player in a green and white shirt?
I first started going to watch Blyth regularly when I was pretty young, 7 or 8. Me Mam was friends with Dougie and Grace Ramsay and I was at school with their son, Malcolm, so Doug took me along. This would have been around 1983 in The Northern League with exotic aways days to places like Consett and Ferryhill.
My hero in those early seasons was Tony McFadden. A proper old school centre forward who knew where the goal was with a tache and a mullet. What we could do with now actually, minus the tache and mullet. Although they seem to be back in fashion. As an annoying little kid he had loads of time for me as well.
Q) Best and Worst ground you’ve been to following Spartans away from home?
I’ll start with worst. I mean, a lot from the Northern League days could be top of he list, not least the 2 clubs I have already mentioned. But I will have to go with Frickley Athletic. As much for the place and the whole experience as the ground itself. One side of the pitch is a massive slag heap left over from the closed down pit. Outside the ground there is more houses boarded up than not. When walking to the ground once, me and Dave (YorkSpartan) were chased by a motorbike with a bloke on the back swinging a massive metal chain at our heads. Then the ground itself is the pits…excuse the pun. Then after the match we somehow ended up in a boozer that was having a wake and they got really offended when we kept trying to leave so ended up in here for ages. Just a proper shithole. Ironically, I now live about 15 miles away.
Best ground. Hard as there have been some great ones. Again, this isn’t specifically because of the ground itself, although I do really like it, but I’m going to go with Leyton Orient’s Brisbane Road Ground. A lovely old stadium, but also because watching Blyth play a competitive game in London was just magic (and we should have at least got a draw). There was also the fact that Matt Roper lived just around the corner from he ground. For years now me and Matt have travelled around the country (with Dave, amongst others) following Blyth on the trains. Him from London and me from Sheffield. I don’t even want to think how much we must have spent. And to get a plum draw right outside his house was unreal. In typical fashion we had plans for a huge night out in London but peaked too early and crashed out pissed by about 8pm.
Q) You obviously spend a lot of time navigating this countries broken rail network and dodgy train stations over the last god knows how many years, what motivates you to follow the club while having to put yourself through all of that, especially after the last few years?
I just love it. I love the club. And I love the supporters. Well, most of them. I’m a Blyth lad and although I moved away in 1997 it is still where I call home and it is still the club I follow. It always will be. A few years back I had a mate in Sheffield and his Dad had a box at Hillsborough. They would offer me a freebie all the time and they couldn’t get their head around me turning them down to spunk a fortune following Blyth on the train to somewhere like Workington instead. It’s a no brainer for me though.
Q) Favourite/best awayday stories?
Not a stand-out story as such, but Bournemouth away in the FA Cup had it all. I had recently moved house that week and 2 of the Cramlington Spartans (Steve and Graham) picked me up in Sheffield in the middle of the night. The pulled up outside my new house about 3am honking their horn and hanging out the windows chanting ‘Spartans! Spartans!’ Great way to impress the new neighbours. This was before Sat Nav and Steve had the directions covered. He pulled out an old tab packet and it had ‘Blyth’ written on the top. Then a downwards arrow. Then ‘Bournemouth’ written on the bottom. It worked, we go there no problem. Loads of stories from that day; drinking in a German been tent at 10am, people flying down from Edinburgh, lads fallen asleep in the cinema, micey pubs beforehand, a great result, sitting on the end of Bournemouth pier at 2am and we were unable to get back to our hotel room as our legs had stopped working. When we did get back and tried to get some kip some knacker was locked out their room and making a racket outside ours. One of the Cram Spartans, for whatever dubious reason, had gaffer tape with him. So we gaffer taped this kid to a chair and covered his gob. Probably an arrestable offence. He was still there in the morning. Loads more happened and I could go on. For a 24 hour window that game has a lot of stories. Some I won’t even mention!
Q) What’s your worst ever awayday story?
Quite a few! Frickley as mentioned above! My worst personally was when we played away at Bishop’s Stortford in 2011 I think. As mentioned previously, Matt was living in London at the time (he’s now emigrated to Canada). So I got the train into London and we went out drinking. Very early. Then we got a train back out of London to the match and I think we won 3-1.
I also got their manager, ex England keeper Ian Walker, to lose his shit with me about something. I can’t remember what I said. Then we went back into London and with it been a local game for Matt he wanted to stay out drinking. So we did. And I was spannered. I went to catch the last train back to Sheffield from London and just made it, or so I thought. With my blurred vision I ended up on a train to Shenfield in Essex which I didn’t even know existed. When I sobered up and realised it was an expensive taxi back to the smoke, last train north to Doncaster, then another expensive taxi. It’s funny now, it wasn’t then!
Editors note – we actually drew that game 3-3, throwing it away in the last minute. Which probably explains why Kev was so spannered.
Q) How you feeling about the season so far and how the team has performed thus far?
It’s been a strange one. We started better than I expected then it went a bit to shit. But saying that, the division is stupidly tight and a couple of wins can see you move from a relegation place to knocking on the doors of he play offs. We’ve done much better than I expected over the festive period as well, which was a bonus. With some loans ending, especially Cedric, I’m really hoping we strengthen the squad soon and can get a comfortable mid table finish. Which would be great as we have been relegation fodder and shit for what feels like ages.
Q) All time Spartans XI and why you’ve chosen them?
I hate doing this and it would probably change if asked tomorrow. This is based purely on who I have watched/can remember so it won’t include players from the 77/78 team and the like. I also remember people in the wrong positions as well so sorry if anyone is thinking wtf?!
Manager – Harry Dunn all day long.
GK – We have had some great ones, but Adam Bartlett just shades it. Fantastic between the bangers.
RB – Cheeks. Ever reliable. Blyth lad.
LB – Leese. Hardly ever put a foot wrong and played 543 games in one season. Or something like that.
CB –Gary Brown. Solid.
CB – Peter Snowden. I mean, I could probably think of a few who shade him tbh but I recently listened to the Green Army podcast and he’s a Blyth lad and clearly loves the club.
CM – Paul Walker. Total class. A step above.
CM – Stephen Turnbull. Great midfielder. He also scored a bang average free kick in a run of the mill FA Cup match. But he doesn’t like to mention it. Much.
LW- Sir Robert of Dale. Some of the stuff I have seen him do on a football pitch looks like it was off FIFA. Legend.
RW- Richie Bond. Old school footballer and great goalscorer.
CF – Tony McFadden. My first hero in green and white. A proper old school CF
CF – Scott Bell. Unreal in the treble winning season. RIP.
Q) Lastly, how are you feeling about things on and off the pitch at the moment and what (if any) changes would you like to see going forward?
On, I think the above answer covers that. Off…oh god, where to start. I mean, I appreciate the stability the club has even though the blazers take a lot of flack and I don’t always think they get the credit they deserve when you look at some other clubs struggling to even exist.
At the same time, we just feel miles behind in terms of our approach and the whole matchday experience. It’s a ‘put it on and they will come’ approach rather than what can we do to make it more appealing to get people to come along. The lack of communication is also poor at best. The fan feedback seems to fall on deaf ears although there did seem to be a refreshing approach more recently so hopefully that can be built on. I think there is some very talented people within the Blyth fanbase but nothing is enticing anyone to step forward. From the outside looking in it appears to a be an old boys club closed shop.