The class of 2010/11 – Part One

In case you couldn’t tell already, I have quite the affinity for this era of Spartans. The days of still being in High School with ne responsibilities and looking just about old enough to sneak the odd pint of Fosters in the clubhouse before going off to get pissed in a field with the lads, truly some Halcyon days. More importantly though under Mick Tait, we played some truly brilliant football. At times we looked unbeatable. Playing an incredible possession based style on a pitch that was looked after by the council at the time, so it was pretty much a cow field.

Anyway, lets begin to take a look back at what happened to everyone who featured for/were signed on for Spartans across the season.

Jake Cunningham – Goalkeeper

A trialist throughout most of the summer, Jake had been released by St Mirren in the summer of 2010 and returned home to the Northeast before landing himself a trial with Spartans. He had an impressive summer, battling it out with Mark Cook and Sam Grieveson who were also on trial that summer.

He would sign a deal days before the season started with Mick saying “In his earlier days the Newcastle-based ‘keeper was in the development squad at Newcastle United, where he was coached by former Spartan Adam Bartlett, who very highly rates the youngster, commenting that the youngster possessed all the attributes required to be a top class ‘keeper in the modern game.”

Jake would make his Spartans debut against Corby Town in the 3rd game of the season after Grieveson was less than impressive. He’d be a decent keeper at times who’s reflexes were canny enough, but ultimately he didn’t impress the management enough and lost his starting role in the team when Gilespie joined on loan. He made 11 appearances for Spartans in total, his last coming against North Shields in the Senior Cup. He was initially signed on early in the 2011/12 season by Steve Cuggy, but he left very early in pre-season without featuring.

Jake would then go onto feature for a then penniless South Shields in the 2011/12, featuring in most of the clubs’ games. He’d spend some time with Newcastle Benfield in the 2012/13 campaign, but I can’t find a record anywhere of how many games he’d actually played as most clubs at non-league level seem to be pretty shite at keeping any kind of player records sadly. He’d not play any football in 2013/14 but returned to South Shields in October 2014, playing for them briefly. The last record I can find of him playing football is in the Northern Alliance for Wallsend Boys Club at the end of the 2014/15 season but since then, he seems to have quit playing at any level.

Always thought it was a shame that Jake never worked out. A really nice lad who always had time for a chat. Saw him once working in JD Sports (or it might have been Footlooker but who fucking cares) in the Metro Centre back in the day. Didn’t let is use his staff discount though, the prick.

Sam Grieveson – Goalkeeper (allegedly)

This lads name honestly still gives me PTSD to this day. 

A schoolboy at Newcastle United, Sam started off at Norwich of all places before being released. He started the 2009/10 campaign out at Durham City, just before they fell apart and nearly went bust. He was signed on league forms and announced by Spartans in October 2009, but didn’t feature at all that season.

He was kept on for the 2010/11 campaign and impressed Mick Tait, playing a staring role in the behind closed doors friendly at Hamilton where Spartans won 4-0. Despite signing Cunningham, Sam would start the season opener away at Solihull Moors, conceding after only 20 seconds.

Following that 2-0 defeat he’d get another chance in the home opener against Stalybridge Celtic where Blyth lost 2-1, and he’d lose his place to Jake Cunningham, for a time. As when Blyth played Redditch United away that October, Cunningham missed the game due to illness leaving Grieveson as the only option to start in goal where deep into the 2nd half he dropped one almighty clanger.

Not long after this, Sam quietly left the club.

Now this is where details on Sam’s career get somewhat patchy to say the least. The next record I can find of him playing football anywhere is in May 2011 for Spennymoor Town, replacing Craig Turns late in a game. From a google search I can see he once featured for Consett? No idea when exactly or how many games he played, but looking at this image his keeper kit is peek 2011-2013 Nike gear.

Details get a bit sketchy form this point until, one cold Tuesday night at Heaton Stannington in early 2016, Tom Wade’s Blyth came down for a Northumberland Senior Cup game and on the team sheet for the hosts was Sam Grieveson, but not as a goalkeeper… turns out he now played as a fucking STRIKER. 

It seems after a spell at Heaton he bounced around the Alliance for a few years with the likes of Killingworth and Newcastle Chemfica, last featuring for Killy in 2021/22, as a striker.

Perhaps I’m being a little harsh on Sam, as he was only 18/19 years old when he played for Spartans, but I was barely 16 at the time so to me he was a fully grown bloke. Now as a bloke in his very late 20’s who recently left the house to gan to work hungover as fuck with odd shoes on, I can safely say he definitely wasn’t a ‘fully grown bloke’.

Jack Norton – Goalkeeper

Okay so this is a weird one, and he just about sneaks onto here. The story goes and I STRESS this is only story, or more of a terrace rumour at the time if you like, that Jack decided he was staying in Ibiza in the summer of 2010 as he was seeing a stripper/dancer and therefore just didn’t turn up for pre-season. He was listed on the matchday programme for all the pre-season games, and it wasn’t announced he was leaving until like the 6th of August or something.

Anyway, Jack started his career at Darlington when they were full time in the football league but never played a first team game and was released in 2007. He’d spend some time at Northallerton and Tow Low in the Northern League during the 2007/08 season, prior to moving to Gateshead in the summer of 2008 as they were promoted to Blue Square North but didn’t feature for the Heed and he’d spend the latter half of the season at Consett.

Joining Blyth in the summer of 2009, initially as back up for goalkeeper Mark Bell who’d been injured a fair bit the previous year. Bell would pick up a few more injuries and Norton would rack up 20 appearances in the league, being largely okay in between the sticks but was pretty average.

He’d spend the 2010/11 and 2011/12 seasons with Northern League side Guisborough, before being one of Darlington 1883’s first signings as they reformed in the Northern League, but he wouldn’t last long, moving to Bedlington Terriers that same season who at the time were hoying a bit of money around where he’d stay until 2014.

This is where things get a bit weird, as he’d move to Hampton & Richmond Borough in the Ryman Premier League and looking at the odd match report, he didn’t exactly have a successful spell. He’d then move to Cray Wanderers over Ireland, before returning to the South signing for Brentwood Town, where I can only find 1 record of him actually playing for them. He’d then make the switch to Ungmennafélagið Sindri (say that 10 times fast) over in Iceland, which was all the rage back then.

Returning back to the Northeast in 2017, he signed for South Shields but quickly switched to Whitby Town, where he’d play until joining Marske United in 2019.

During the behind closed doors season he’d sign for Spennymoor Town, which was a surprise to most of us as seeing Jack Norton back in the Conference North wasn’t on anyone’s 2020 bingo card. Since then, he’s played for Whickham, Billingham Town, Pickering Town and Redcar Athletic. A proper journeyman.

Mark Gillespie – Goalkeeper

Wey, it’s safe to say Mark’s had a decent career since leaving Blyth.

Originally with Newcastle United as a schoolboy, he wasn’t offered a proper youth deal and made the move across the A69 to sign for Carlisle United in 2008. After a few years in the youth set up, he made his debut on the final day of the season away to Norwich in May of 2010, keeping a clean sheet all while becoming Carlisle’s youngest ever goalkeeper.

In the October, Blyth manager Mick Tait drafted him in on an initial 1-month loan after Cunningham and Grieveson failed to lock down the starting role. Straight away, it was clear that Mark was a sublime keeper. In his debut away at Eastwood Town he kept a clean sheet, putting in an excellent performance as Spartans began to get their season back on track.

In his home debut against Hyde United, Mark gave a win a penalty only to pull of a stunning save to from the spot. To this day I reckon he did that to make the save and show off. Mark would go onto have his loan extended, making 12 appearances in total whilst keeping 6 clean sheets before returning to Carlisle in January 2011.

Frustratingly for Mark he couldn’t displace longtime starter Adam Colin straight away, having to wait until September 2012 to get another game, featuring for the Cumbrians in what’s now known as the Papa John’s Trophy. For the next few months, he’d lay claim to the number one shirt and was even praised by Tottenham Hotspur boss André Villas-Boas and veteran keeper Carlo Cudicini after Carlisle slipped to a 3–0 defeat in a League Cup later than same month.

Mark lost his place in the first team at the start of November 2012, after playing 13 consecutive games in two months, during which he conceded 23 goals and kept only 1 clean sheet. Though 2 months later, he was back in as the clubs number one keeper, going to make 37 appearances in all competitions.

Gillespie’s 2013–14 season was curtailed by a knee injury suffered in an FA Cup tie against Boreham Wood in November. He made no further appearances for Carlisle during the season, as the club was relegated to League Two. He’d continue at Carlisle until the summer of 2017, when he’d leave the club for Walsall in League One.

This would be a seemingly unsuccessful move for Mark, and 12 months later he’d move north of the border and join Motherwell in the Scottish Premier League, making 67 appearances over the next 2 seasons.

In the summer of 2020, he got what would surely be considered as a dream move as he signed a 3-year deal with Newcastle United to provide cover as third choice goalkeeper. Since then, Mark has played a handful of League Cup games, and even made the bench for Newcastle’s League Cup final earlier this due to injuries and suspensions. At the time of writing, he’s just been awarded another 1-year deal with the Toon.

Dan Lowson – Goalkeeper

Like so many young keepers around the area at the time, Dan started his career at Gretna, before moving back to his native North East with Newcastle Blue Star, where he was a key part of the side that achieved promotion to the Unibond Premier Division in 2009. He was a ‘trialist’ in the summer of 2009 for Spartans, playing against Darlington in a friendly but as Mark Bell was still under contract, Mick was unable to sign him up.

After the demise of Blue Star, Lowson featured for Ilkeston briefly before signing short term deals with both Luton Town and Darlington.

Joining Blyth in the January after Mark Gillespie left, Dan more or less picked up where Mark left off, putting in some stunning performances as Spartans progressed in the FA Trophy and ultimately came short in the play off race. Despite only spending a few Months with Blyth, Dan is still well regarded by many who saw him feature for Spartans.

In the summer of 2011, he’d move south and sign a full-time deal with now Blue Square Bet Premier side Alfreton Town, who’d just been promoted as champions from the north. What a weird sentence that is. This spell would be unsuccessful though and Lowson would lose his role as 1st choice keeper in the middle of the season, even returning to Ilkeston on loan briefly.

Returning to the north east, Dan joined newly rich Celtic Nation (formerly Gilford Park) as they threw money about for a few years before joining West Auckland in 2014. After a season in the Northern League, he’d move to Spennymoor Town where he’d have a very successful spell, even helping them gain promotion twice to the now Vanarama National League North in 2017.

He’d eventually lose his starting role at Spenny and be loaned to Morpeth where he’d sign permanently in the summer of 2018. Since then, he’s been Morpeth’s undisputed number 1 goalkeeper where he’s since played 150 league games for the Highwayman. Now aged 35, Dan shows no signs of slowing down as he’s signed up for Morpeth Town once again.

Callum Morris – Defender

To this day this I’ll never understand why Cal never played more games for us.

Released by Newcastle in the summer of 2010, he was a transfer target of Tait’s for a few weeks but spent most of the summer on trial with Gateshead. After they didn’t offer him a deal, he signed for Spartans in the August right before the new season. Sadly though, he’d only make 5 appearances in the league as both Wayne Buchanan and Chris Swailes seemingly had the starting roles at centre back under lock and key.

In January 2011, he moved to Spain and signed for the Glen Hoddle Academy/Jerez Industrial CF who played in the Spanish 4th tier. Explaining this thing proberly would be an article in itself, but the lads basically stayed at a luxury villa, got free bait and even got paid with the aim pretty much being that they’d get picked up by full-time clubs.

In late 2011 Callum would return to England and feature briefly for Hayes and Yeading, leaving around Christmas time. From the records I can see after this, he had some unsuccessful trials in England, Portugal and Greece, and even considered giving up professional football but in August 2012, he signed for Scottish Championship side Dunfermline.

He’d feature in the vast majority of the teams’ fixtures, but the season was marred with financial problems, which led to the club entering administration. Morris even wrote on Twitter of his frustrations over wage delays. This would ultimately lead to Dunfermline being relegated, but Cal was named in the PFA Scotland Team of the Year for the Championship and was named club captain ahead of the new season in Scotland’s third tier. Callum helped Dunfermline to finish second in League One, qualifying for the Championship play-offs but they’d lose 4–1 on aggregate to Cowdenbeath in the play-off final.

He’d move onto Dundee United that summer who played in the SPL, scoring his first goal for the club in the Dundee derby. Injuries though would disrupt his form and across his 2 years at Tannadice Park he was only able to feature in 38 league games. After this he had a disastrous spell at Aberdeen, failing to make an appearance and left the club at Christmas to re-sign for Dunfermline, who were now in the Championship. He’d spend another year at the club, once again as captain before moving to Ross County.

While at County he’d never be a mainstay in the team but did win the Scottish Championship and the IRN-BRU Cup with in the 2018/19 season. After 3 seasons he’d be released in 2021, making only 55 appearances for The Staggies.

After his release he’d return to the North East and join Northern Premier League side Morpeth Town, where he was also the Sporting Operations Manager at the club…whatever one of those is? He’d make 40 appearances for Morpeth over 2 seasons and has only just left the club after mutually agreeing to terminate his contract.

Phil Cave – Defender

Another product of Newcastle’s youth system, Phil would get as far as featuring for the reserves but never got a chance to feature in the first team before being released in the summer of 2007. Joining Gateshead upon his release, Phil would be key player for the Tynesiders making 39 appearances in the league, notching 9 goals and plenty of assists.

After a successful season where Gateshead won promotion via the play offs, Phil would get another chance in full time football, this time with Livingston in the SPL. Unfortunately, he didn’t get much of a shot at Livingston, making only 3 league appearances before being loaned back to Gateshead in February 2009, where he’d have another successful spell and once again, win promotion with Gateshead via the play offs.

Phil would rejoin Gateshead ahead of their return to the Conference Premier, competing with Mark Robinson and later Paul Heckingbottom for gametime across most of the season. Phil managed to feature in 18 games as they survived relegation on the last day of the season but wouldn’t be offered a new contract at the end of the season when Gateshead went full time.

Joining Blyth in the summer of 2010, Phil would establish himself as one of Spartans best players under Mick Tait. A reliable defender who loved getting forward to throw a cross into the box, Cave had begun to make Gateshead’s decision to release him a poor one. After Tait left at the end of the season, Blyth were able to keep Cave around when Steve Cuggy took over despite interest from elsewhere, but under the management of him and then Tommy Cassidy, Phil would go onto to have a poor season, leaving the club in March 2012 when Joe Kendrick was brought in.

He briefly joined Ashganistan in the summer of 2012, before making the switch to Bedlington Terriers who had just started to throw money around. In 2013 he made the move to Australia, where he’d feature for Holland Park Hawks, based in Brisbane. Can’t find a great deal of info about his spell in Oz, as Holland Park pretty much just looks like a Northern Alliance ground. He returned to England in 2016, where he appeared once again for Bedlington Terriers for a season and since then it appears he retired after the 2016/2017 season.

A fantastic player on his day, it’s always been a mystery to me as to why his form dropped off in his second season didn’t seem to achieve much after his spell with Spartans ended.

Michael Simm – Defender

I presume just about everyone reading this will not have a clue who this lad is. A former junior player, Michael was signed up early in the 2010/11 season alongside Eoin Ridley. Branded as a scholarship programme, the idea was for both lads train and travel with the first team. It seems Michael didn’t last all the long as from memory, I was told he stopped turning up training after only a few weeks.

Obviously, information is very scarce on Michael. Found some record of him playing for Bedlington FC seniors a few years back, both on a Saturday and a Sunday but that’s about it.

Dan Groves – Defender

A youth player at Darlington, Dan made 17 appearances for Darlo as they were relegated from League Two in 2010. He’d be released that summer, joining Blyth to minimal fanfare as the rest of the midfield was already pretty well established. Initially he didn’t get much of a look in but that all changed when the budget was cut, and Stephen Harrison departed.

To the surprise of most Dan would slot in at right back and be a revelation, playing some brilliant football. A reliable defender who like Cave, was comfortable going forward in Tait’s free flowing attacking side. Again though like Phil Cave, Groves would struggle for form in his second season under Cuggy and later Tommy Cassidy, and would leave the club in the summer of 2012.

Joining Spennymoor, Groves and his new side would make the FA Vase final in his first season but he missed out on going to Wembley after being admitted to hospital with a twisted bowel and appendicitis and was recovering for a few months after a couple of operations. He’d spend a total of 3 years at Spennymoor, winning the Northern League in 2014.

He moved to Shildon in 2015, once again winning the Northern League in his debut season, as Gary Forrest’s side dominated the title race from the get-go. Now operating fully as a defender, he’d feature at Shildon for 3 seasons before making the switch to Hebburn Town ahead of the 2018/19 season, where he still is today as a mainstay of the team, winning the 2020 FA Vase and helping Hebburn clinch promotion to the Northern Premier League East and as of 2021, he’s the clubs captain.

In all honestly I’m surprised Dan never got a shot at a higher level after his 1st season at Spartans. Definitely seemed to have the ability to do so but for some reason, it never happened.