Today we remember Scott Bell, 10 years after he sadly passed away as a result of Motor Neurone Disease aged just 35.
A Cramlington lad who grew up on the terraces of Croft Park supporting Spartans, Scott would go on to realise his dream of pulling on the famous green and white shirt when he joined the club in December 2004, going on to make over 125 appearances, net 50 goals for the club and win a famous treble in the 2005/06 season, along with a whole host of personal accolades.
Throughout his years at Blyth, Scott was a beloved fan favourite who went onto become a club legend as well as being a much-loved teammate.
More importantly than that though, Scott is a beloved friend, son, brother, husband and father who is sorely missed.
Starting out in the Northern League at just 16 years old, Scott went on to play for Newcastle Blue Star, West Allotment Celtic and Newcastle Benfield, though he would feature mainly as a winger due to his pace and lack of height, though he always wanted to play upfront.
After growing disillusioned with football at Benfield, he made the switch to Brandon United in the 2003/04 campaign but most importantly of all, he made the change to striker. Scott hit the ground running at Brandon and helped boost them out of a relegation battle and finish in 8th place. He’d start the 2004/05 season in even better form, grabbing 28 goals by December.
By now of course he’d caught the attention of Spartans manager Harry Dunn who snapped up the then 24-year-old striker. Dunn himself had not long returned to club as manager, replacing Paul Baker who’d been relived of his duties following a poor start to the season.
Inheriting the likes of Richard Forster, Graham Fenton, Gareth Williams, Craig Turns and Andy Leeson, Harry quickly added the likes of Scott, Pete Snowdon, Chris McCabe, Dale Crawford, Craig Price, Anth Lowther and the Gildea brothers before adding Robbie Dale to the mix late in the season.
Harry’s new look Blyth side would go onto finish a respectable 12th place in the league, and Scott’s form throughout the second half of the season would be a big reason as to why Spartans were able to turn things around, as he smashed home 12 goals in 24 games. After a hugely successful first few months at Spartans, Scott was voted the Player of the Season for the 2004/05 campaign.
Alongside his new strike partner though, Spartans were set to take to the skies.
By January 2006, Spartans were doing well in the league sitting just outside the play offs in 7th with only 4 league defeats and having had a short FA Cup run to the 4th qualyifng round as well as progressing through 3 rounds of the FA Trophy.
Blyth’s first game of 2006 would take them away to league leaders North Ferriby, who were nearly 20 points ahead of Spartans in the league. Harry’s side tore the league leaders to pieces with Robbie Dale netting a hat-trick in a 4-1 victory in front of the traveling Spartan Army on the Bank Holiday Monday.
From this point onwards the belief that promotion was an achievable goal began to gain traction amongst fans and players alike. That belief only grew as the month went on as Blyth demolished 4th place Witton Albion 5-1 at Croft Park, with Scott scoring a hat-trick against a side that featured a few former Manchester United Players.
A week later he bagged yet another hat-trick in 3-2 win away at Ashton United, setting him up with a chance to become the first ever player to score three hat-tricks in a row for Blyth! Sadly though Scott only managed the 1 goal, but it was the only goal in the game as Spartans beat Ossett Albion 1-0 in a league cup game.
Scott and the lads would have to overcome an enormous back log of games as the season went on though, including playing 3 games in just 4 days over the Easter weekend. Blyth of course won all 3 games, including a 2-1 win over Gateshead thanks to goals from Robbie Dale and Pete Snowdon.
In the penultimate league game of the season, Spartans took on Guiseley on a Thursday night with the title in the balance. With over 1,000 in attendance, a Blyth victory would all but guarantee the title and they did just that, with Scott scoring twice in the first half and Robbie late on to wrap up a 3-1 win. On the final day of the season they would cruise past Wakefield to wrap up an incredible title victory, before adding the Peter Swales Memorial Shield and UniBond Chairman’s Cup in the coming days to wrap up a treble.
Scott had managed 17 goals in 46 games across the season but him and the lads would need to step it up a gear to compete in the Nationwide Conference North. Despite a few new faces coming in, nobody would get off to a hotter start than Scott, who scored an incredible 8 goals in his first 5 starts that season to send Spartans to the top of table.
Scott continued to lead the line for Spartans in the early part of the season as Spartans battled at the top of table whilst trying to embark on yet another cup run, where Scott had to rescue Spartans from defeat with a penalty in the final moments of the game away at Whitley Bay.
Spartans did fizzle out as the season went on though, finishing in 7th and unable leapfrog both Harrogate Town and Farsley Celtic into the play offs on the final day of the season on top of a defeat Morpeth Town in the Northumberland Senior Cup final.
For Scott though, the season would be a bit of a triumph personally as he finished the season with 19 goals in 34 starts! That made him the club’s top scorer and he would once again win the club’s Player of the Year award. Speaking to Graham Usher back in 2012 when asked about winning the award, Scott said “It was amazing, as it was our first season in the Conference North. As a forward, you just want to score goals so, if you can become top scorer, it’s fantastic. If you can do it at the biggest club you’ve ever played for in your life – in the highest level they’ve ever been – then that’s even better.”
Sadly for Scott though, things would change for him at Blyth ahead of the 2007/08 season with Scott left out of the starting XI in the early weeks of the season and by October, he was out the door on ‘loan’. His last game for Spartans came in early October, against Ashington.
When reflecting back on his time at Spartans in 2012, he told Graham Usher “I think, now more than ever, we can see how good a job Harry did for Blyth. When you look at the managers since Harry and how they have struggled, it shows just how hard it really is to build a competitive team at this level. He was a very shrewd manager. He always focussed on the other team and knew what their weak points were and what we could do to counter them. Harry was also lucky that he managed to find the right players at the right time.
We had such a great dressing room and everybody got on really well.“
“The team spirit was by far the best I have ever been involved with, either before or after playing at Blyth. We just had the right blend of characters in the group: from the weirdness of Andy Leeson, the humour of Anth Lowther (RIP, absolute legend) and the passion of Pete Snowdon, to the crazy characters like ‘Fozzy’ (Richard Forster) and Michael Hedley. I think there were many teams that were better than us, but none that were more togetherness. We had a bond and it was that togetherness and never say die attitude which won us a lot of games. We all really wanted to play for Blyth and it meant a lot to us.”
After leaving Blyth ‘on loan’ he moved to former club Newcastle Blue Star, managed by Tommy Cassidy in the UniBond 1st division prior to switching back to the Northern League and spending the 2008/09 season with Bedlington Terriers but by the end of that season, Scott made the decision to retire from football. Feeling increasingly tired and sore after games and after 2 years of doctor appointments and hospital visits, Scott would finally be diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in May 2011.
Shortly after the devastating news, Scott and his family would set up the ‘Scott Bell Fund’ to help raise money for the MND Association, in a bid to finally find a cure for this horrible disease.
In May of 2012 Spartans a hosted benefit game for the Scott Bell Fund, with many of Scott’s former teammates and few other club legends came together to take on a Bedlington Terriers XI with Scott kicking the game off.
The game raised just over £3,000 for the fund which was topped up by the Dublin2Blyth cycle event, organised by Fergus Dowd and Tony Parker where a group of Spartans fans and friends cycled all the way from Dublin, nearly 350 miles in total.
Sadly though despite all of the brilliant work from fundraisers, ex teammates, friends and family alike, Scott’s condition worsened and he would ultimately pass away on 6 October 2013.
A minutes applause would be held at the next home game against Ilkeston instead of a minutes silence, as ‘the club felt that in light of Scott’s bravery and dedication to raising awareness of Motor Neurone Disease a minutes applause would be more appropriate.’
In the December that year Scott’s shirt would be hung up in the Spartans Clubhouse where it remains to this day, alongside team mate Anth Lowther who had also passed away back in 2010.
Scott would continue to be remembered and paid tribute to by Spartans fans alike, with his name name chanted and ‘Scott Bell RIP’ signs held high during Blyth’s televised FA Cup game at Hartlepool in December 2014.
The Scott Bell fund has continued to raise funds to help local people affected by MND, as well as research to find a cure for the disease. Scott’s family and friends have put in an incredible amount of work over the years, helping to raise over £140,000 over the years through everything from Tough Mudder events, charity football matches, sky dives, raffles and a running club. 10 years on since Scott’s passing, they continue to raise funds in Scott’s memory.
For me, Scott was my first ever hero at Spartans. As a 12-year-old on the terraces, it was a battling 2-2 draw against Hucknall Town in January 2007 where Scott smashed home a goal and set Robbie up for his goal. The display from him was everything I loved to see in a player even then, with plenty of sheer determination, constant running and tons of quality with the ball at his feet. For many of the lads who I grew up following Spartans in those days, he was often considered everyone’s favourite player.
The fact that Scott is so widely and fondly remembered by so many people speaks volumes abut the sort of person he was. Reading some of the tributes to him this morning have been simply moving.
RIP Scott, you’ll never been forgotten.