The class of 2010/11 – Part Two

Better late never as they say! If you missed Part One you can find it here.

Hopefully the third and final part of this won’t take as long to get done, though I can’t promise anything.

Chris Swailes – Defender

As Swaz spent nearly 20 years playing football, there is absolutely ne way I’m going to spend a great length of time discussing his playing history. In a nut shell, he racked up over 400 appearances in the football league between 1991 and 2007 for the likes of Doncaster, Ipswich, Bury, Rotherham and Oldham Athletic before switching to Hamilton in the SPL. He’d spend the 2009/10 season with his hometown team Gateshead, making 26 appearances but was released at the end of the season.

Joining Blyth at age 39, he would also act as Tait’s assistant manager. Far from blessed with pace even in his prime, Swaz LOVED a tackle and seemed revel in getting into wars with forwards.

Him and Wayne Buchanan would form a decent partnership together at the back. Together they were without doubt the slowest centre back partnership in the league, but definitely the hardest. He’d depart Spartans at the end of the season shortly after Tait left, moving to Dunston in the Northern League. That pre-season he would face Steve Cuggy’s new look Blyth side in friendly, where he’d get out muscled by Spartans trialist and cult hero Yanis Galas, which had the fans in Blyth end in stiches, as Swaz’s face filled with rage as he desperately tried to smash Yanis.

His time at Dunston would be a successful one though, as they won the FA Vase in 2012 and he made over 100 appearances across a 3-year spell. A brief stint as Assistant Manager at Hamilton would follow, but he resigned after 3 month’s and returned to playing. this time for Morpeth. He’d go on to win the FA Vase again and while also becoming the oldest-ever goalscorer in a Wembley final at the age of 45.

In late 2016 he moved into management with a move back to Dunston, where in 2018 he’d guide them to a Northern League cup victory prior to winning the Northern League and promotion in 2019. Swailes would continue to build a decent side at UTS who only just missed out on the play offs in 2023. Swaz left the club in last summer, resigning after 7 years manager.

Gareth Williams – Defender/Midfielder

Originally signed up at the start of the season, Cheeks featured for Spartans throughout pre-season until the trip to Spennymoor in late July, where it emerged that Whitley Bay had put 7 days’ notice in for him. Mick Tait said in a statement “I expect he’ll talk to them but I don’t want him to go. I’ve told him he’s still part of my plans for next season. “I’ve given him the go ahead to play for them in friendlies next week. I wouldn’t normally have done that but I wanted to give him the respect he deserves after his ten years of service at Croft Park. I just hope he realises the difference in levels between the Northern League and Blue Square North and wants to stay with us.”

Day later though, it was announced that Cheeks had decided to make the switch to Whitley Bay. In a further statement Tait said “We have a committed, determined squad and a good dressing room, obviously it is a blow for Cheeks to leave as he was part of my plans for this season, but I had a long chat with him after training last night and he feels that he has gone stale at Blyth and wants a new challenge in his career. The dynamics of the squad, in terms of age, has changed since I arrived at the club and I think Gareth feels that the time is right to move on.”

Cheeks echoed those words in his own statement saying “It came to the time when I needed a new challenge,” he said. “After 10 years I’d become a bit stale and simply felt a change was necessary. It’s nothing to do with anything happening at the club. I’d like to thank the supporters, including those on the Fans Forum, for getting behind me over the years and I hope the side pushes on this coming season.”

After 10 years and 400 appearances, Cheeks never got a testimonial from the club.

In his first season at the Bay, Cheeks would win the FA Vase as Whitley Bay completed a hat trick of Vase wins. Williams played for Whitley for another year, before making the switch to Ashington in 2012. After a few months with the Colliers, he switched to Newcastle Benfield where he’d spend the next few years but finished up at Dunston in the latter half of the 2014/15 season.

According to some records I’ve found he briefly played for Whitley Bay ‘A’ in the Northern Alliance around 2017(ish) where he played his final game of football in a cup final, against Pete Snowdon’s Seaton Delaval Amateurs.

Wayne Buchanan – Defender

Originally from Banbridge in Northern Ireland, Buch’s started his career off at Bolton Wanders in the early 2000’s making only 1 appearance in the 2001/02 FA Cup fourth round against Tottenham.

He was released in 2003, moving back home to join Lisburn Distillery where he’d make 226 appearances, most of them as captain and he featured in a few UEFA Intertoto Cup games. Sadly I can’t find a great deal of info about his spell in Northern Ireland. There is an interview in some Northern Irish newspaper he’s done about his time at Lisburn, but I’m not paying £9.99 to read about that.

In 2008 he made the switch from the rainy shores of the United Kingdom to the sunny Gold Coasts of Australia. He played for Brisbane Olympic mainly, though he spent some time on trial at Gold Coast United in his 18 months in Oz, coming close to winning a full-time contract with them on 2 occasions.

He returned to UK in January 2010 and would end up signing for Gateshead in the February, where he’d make 2 appearances for the club before being released in the summer as Gateshead went full time.

After a trial with Blyth he signed for Spartans on the eve of the 2010/11 season, and would go onto form a slow yet formidable partnership with Swailes. After Swaz left the club in the summer of 2011, Buch’s stayed on and played alongside the likes of Davey Coulson, Liam Aitken, Daz Timmons, Greg Pearson and a whole host of other random players I currently can’t recall.

Buch’s had declined a bit during Blyth’s relegation season after an impressive first campaign, but new manager Tommy Cassidy would end up awarding him the captaincy as we went into the 2012/13 season, which would be yet another dismal campaign. From memory Buch’s had picked up a few injuries, and managed to get even slower as he declined again and left the club in the summer of 2013.

He moved onto a pre–Ken Beattie Morpeth Town in 2013 who were just treading water in the Northern League. He’d spend the next 18 months with Morpeth before making the switch to Gary Middleton’s Ashington. A short spell at new money South Shields would then follow in the summer of 2015. He’d be with the Northern League 2nd Division side for less than a month before moving back up to the Northern League 1st Division with Sunderland RCA.

In the summer of 2016, he’d make the move back to the right side of the water as he rejoined Ashington. He’d spend the next 3 seasons as their main man in defence as they maintained their Northern League 1st Division status and transitioned into the Ian Skinner era.

The summer of 2019 would see him move to North Shields, where’d spend the next 18 months or so before initially retiring in October 2020 during COVID. He appears to have made a few more appearances for them since then though, while also being registered for Whickham and Consett as recently as 2022 while he was coaching at those clubs.

At present Buch’s is the assistant manager at Consett, having been an assistant Whickham previously. He currently isn’t listed at Consett as being on the staff on their website, but I can’t find a press released to say he left them so, I’m presuming he’s still there.

Stuart Wright – Defender/Midfielder

I’ll presume you definitely don’t remember this lad? Aye, me neither. Only very limited information can be found about him online and I can’t be arsed to dig through my mountains of old programmes to check Mick Tait’s old notes for any news on him as it likely won’t bring up anything thrilling.

Anyway, Stuart was seemingly registered early in 2011 to fill the bench after the budget was cut. He was named on the bench 4 times, with his final inclusion in the squad coming against Gateshead in the FA Trophy. According to a Chronicle match report, he was ‘loaned’ to Newcastle Benfield and got an assist during a win in the Brooks Mileson Memorial Cup.

He then seems to have disappeared from football, but if my research is correct (I hope it is otherwise I’ll look a knob) he was over in the USA playing in the college system and studying to be a physio before returning to the North East for Uni and to play football for us and seemingly some Northern League sides.

A move back to the USA appears to have come in 2013, where he’s gone onto work for a number of clubs and college/universities before he got the job of Director of Performance / Head Athletic Trainer at Louisville City FC who play in the 2nd tier of the American league system.

So aye, there’s some useless information for you.

Ian Graham – Striker

A graduate of Sunderland’s academy, Graham was released by Sunderland despite showing some early promise at the Academy of Light. Following his release he’d be picked up by Newcastle Benfield in 2006.

An undersized but pacey player who was a canny finisher in his day, Graham had gone from an undersized winger to one of the best strikers in the Northern League by 2009.

That’s when Mick Tait swooped in with Blyth’s FA Cup cash, as Graham became the main man upfront, but he’d be quickly ousted by the arrival of Paul Brayson. Across the 2009/10 season Graham made 39 appearances in total (a fair few as a sub) and netted 12 goals in the Blue Square North.

His second season at Blyth got off to a poor start though and Graham would be released during Spartans budget cuts in October 2010, just days after missing a plethora of easy chances down at lowly Redditch United. A move back to Newcastle Benfield would be sorted more or less straight away and his goalscoring resumed.

He appears to have gone on to have a few more successful seasons at Benfield until about 2014, where he then appears to have disappeared from football. There are a few references to him on the Northern Alliance’s registration website, but they seem to be in reference to a centre back by the same name who played In mid to late 2010’s.

So, it would seem Ian bowed out of football before he hit is 30’s on his own terms. It’s a shame his Blyth career fizzled out the way it did as I thought he showed flashes as he struggled for game time and chances behind Paul Brayson.

Calvin Smith – Midfielder

Originally a centre midfielder, Cal started out at Durham City when they were spending money and rising through the leagues. After that abruptly ended, he switched to Spennymoor and Dunston UTS before Mick Tait brought him to Blyth in the summer of 2010.

Originally described as a tough tackler who could pick a pass, Cal never really hit the ground running at Blyth and when the budget cuts came – he was out the door. To be fair to the lad, he was a youngish player who was never going displace Hooks, Tait, or Turnbull in the centre of midfield.

After his release he returned to Spennymoor and went onto win the Northern League that year. After another year at Spenny, he’d begin to lose his place in the team as Spenny began to throw more money about and Smith left them in the summer of 2012 to join up with Consett.

He’d go onto be a stalwart and a bit of a club legend at Consett, becoming the heart of the midfield over the next 4 seasons. In 2016 he’d leave for a brief time though, joining his mate Michael Mackay over at Jarrow Roofing.

That spell didn’t last long and he returned to Consett where he’s stayed ever since, featuring in their delayed FA Vase in 2021 and winning promotion to the Northern Premier League Division 1 East in 2022.

These days Cal is an established centre back at Consett and has made nearly 500 appearances since originally joining them in 2012.

Kris Wilkinson – Midfielder

Another one many of you will never have heard of or very likely forgotten. Kris joined Blyth in early November as Mick’s team began to turn things around with a rather thin squad.

Then just 19 years old, Kris had trained with the team in the summer before going onto play for the newly formed Gateshead Reserve side earlier in the season.

He made his only appearance for the club in an FA Trophy game against Stafford Rangers, which Spartans won 1-0. He’d feature on the bench a few more times for Blyth before disappearing from the matchday squad. It looks like he went onto play for Gateshead College’s football team, the forerunner to their current youth team.

After that his career record seems to be a bit all over the place. I can see records of him playing over in America at Barry University, which is a college in Miami. After 2 years in the Sunshine State where he scored 21 goals in 23 games it looks like he moved back home, as he featured for Seaham Red Star in the summer of 2013 before moving over to West Auckland Town at some point in the season.

2 more years back over in the USA followed in 2015 and 2016, where he played 33 games and netted 30 goals for St. Thomas University back in Miami in the college leagues.

After that he seems to have spent some time at both Killingworth and New Fordley in the Northern Alliance Premier League, where he seems to have played intermittently ever since.

Liam O’Mahoney – Winger

What a player this lad could be on his day. Originally a youth player at Darlington, he played in their reserves at a young age alongside Shaun Reay in the Durham Senior Cup as they played and comfortably beat some Northern League teams.

O’Mahoney moved to Sunderland in 2009 on what looked like a free transfer. After 2 years at the Mackem’s where he played in the reserves and even featured on Soccer AM’s ‘Skill Skool’ he was released on a free transfer.

He went on trial with Spartans in the summer along with a few other teams, eventually signing for Blyth right before the season began.

A pacey winger who had bags of flair, O’Mahoney was often the odd one out in midfield as manager Mick Tait often preferred to have Nicky Deverdics and Robbie Dale on the wings with Stephen Turnbull, Michael Tait and Neal Hooks.

He’d often come on as a sub and got a rare start here and there where’d he show flashes of brilliance, quickly becoming a bit of a terrace favourite. When the budget cuts came, Liam was often the only sub on the bench that was actually worth bringing on.

He’d eventually get his first goal for Blyth, netting the final goal in Blyth’s 4-0 victory over Droylsden that rather heated FA Trophy replay. I still remember the away end erupting when he finally got his goal to round that game off.

Sadly for Liam though, this would be the peak of his Blyth career and at the end of the season when Tait left he followed him out the door.

After Spartans, Liam appeared for a few Northern League clubs including Thornaby, Consett and Newcastle Benfield. He earned a trial at Darlington when they reformed in 2012, but he wasn’t offered a deal and later signed for Whitby before finishing the 2012/13 season at Consett.

After that, he seems to have dropped out of football altogether and seems to have been quite on social media for years. It’s a shame that he never worked out at Blyth, as he could have been an incredible footballer. Sadly though, I think some off the field issues hindered his football career – or at least that was the rumour back in the day.

Michael Tait – Midfield

Another fan favourite from that season, Tait started out at Darlington as a youngster before making the switch north of the border to Gretna for the 2006/07 season. After a year in the reserves, he left to join free spending Newcastle Blue Star right before the 2007/08 got underway.

After an impressive year with Blue Star in the Evo-Stik first division, Tait left in the summer of 2008 to join Blyth, though he wouldn’t exactly last very long. He joined, took part in the team photo and seemingly u-turned on his move to rejoin Newcastle Blue Star before we could announce that we signed him. He’d be joined by his Dad late in the season as Blue Star ended up winning promotion from to UniBond Premier Division via the play offs, but they would of course fold at the end of the season as David Thompson pulled his money.

He’d follow his Dad to Spartans in May 2009, where’s he’d have to compete for a place in the centre of midfield with Stephen Turnbull, Chris McCabe, Simon Todd, club captain Gareth Williams and later former NUFC reserve Mark Doninger and ex New Zealand international Adie Webster.

Tait Jr would get a lot of minutes from the get-go and it went down with supporters like a led balloon. With Ste hitting the ground running and the other 3 lads being favourites amongst supporters, Tait Sr allowing Tait Jr to play 90 minutes almost week in week out which was seen as pure nepotism by most people at the time,

To be fair to both of them, neither really reacted to the criticism or kicked off at all. They simply got on with the job of proving the supporters wrong, and it didn’t take long for them to do so.

Tait’s form improved quickly, culminating in hat-rick and a MOTM performance in the FA Cup 2nd qualifying round against Ossett Albion where Blyth won 7-1. Tait then won the club’s POTM award in October that year.

He’d continue to improve as the season went on and was regarded as one of Blyth’s best players in end after scoring 10 goals in all competitions in midfield.

As the 2010/11 season began, he featured alongside Stephen Turnbull and Neal Hooks in midfield, who formed a formidable partnership across the season. He’d score another 10 goals in the league as Spartans play off hopes fell apart in the final few weeks of the season after that disappointing FA Trophy game.

After his Dad left the club at the end of the season, Tait Jr followed the likes of Turnbull and Brayson down to Harrogate as Irving Weaver began to chuck his money about. That move went sour for him rather fast though and he’d rejoin Spartans on loan for a month in October.

He managed 5 appearances in his 3rd spell at Blyth, scoring in the FA Cup game at Whitby in the 3rd qualifying round. That move would not become a permanent one though and he spent the rest of the season on loan at Ashington.

A move to Whitby Town in 2012 followed after a trial with Darlington 1883 in the summer, but he only made 15 appearances and failed score a goal in the now Evo-Stik Premier League. At some stage he switched to Whitley Bay in the Northern League, who were on a comedown after their run of FA Vase wins.

He seemingly didn’t last long there and went down to the 2nd Division of the Northern League with North Shields where he rediscovered his form, netting 11 goals in 21 games as they won the league.

He initially agreed to stay with North Shields but West Auckland came calling soon after. Sadly, West Auckland’s social media and website was shite at this time so little information can be obtained from his spell at the former World Cup winners. Looking at some old articles in the Sunderland Echo, he looks like spent part of the 2015/16 season at Washington.

He appears to have been signed on with Dunston in 2016/17 season, though he also signed forms for Cullercoats in the Northern Alliance 1st Division and may have also played for Walker Central at some point. The Alliance’s record’s can be a bit patchy, but both records with the name Michael Tait have the same DOB as the Michael Tait who played at Blyth, so I doubt it’s a coincidence.

He’d join Blyth AFC (formerly known as Blyth Town) in the summer of 2017 but would leave in the October when Barry Elliot pulled his finances and they folded. He joined Bishop Auckland where he spent the remainder of that season and seemingly left the club in 2018, and I can’t find any record of him playing football during the 2018/19 season or the 2019/20 campaign.

During the 2020/21 season he appears to have played for Willington in the Northern League 2nd Division, though I can’t see any goal records or anything like that. During the 2021/22 season he was signed on with North Shields Athletic and last year briefly played for Newcastle Independent, both in the Northern Alliance Premier League.

He no longer appears to have been signed up anywhere and at 35 years old, I’d imagine he’s done with football now.

If Mick Tait’s reign didn’t end the way it did at that team stayed together and possibly got a bit stronger, there’s no telling how good the team could have gone onto be, especially with Michael at the heart of. During his time at Blyth it seemed like he constantly kept getting better, and might have even earned himself a move into full time football had he continued to shine at Blyth.

It’s a shame that he didn’t really go onto recapture his form anywhere else after Blyth though, considering how good he could be on his day with us. A true talent and a grafter.