Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Cack-Handed Away Guide II: BLYTH SPARTANS AFC.


Blyth Spartans AFC
Croft Park
NE24 3JE 


The Spartans

But we call them

Spartizan Blythe

Billy basics

Manager: Mick Tait, ass. Chris Swailes (the ex-Bury, Doncaster and Ipswich one)
Founded: 1899
2010/11: 9th, Conf North
2009/10: 13th, Conf North
2008/09: 15th, Conf North
Highest position: 2006/07: 7th, Conf North
Average attendance 2010/11: ~450

Who are Spartizan Blythe?

Apparently "the only team to have never been relegated," Spartizan have the pride and honour of being another club that specialise in giant killing. They got closer than the propaganda and lies behind Creepy Crawley did this 2010/11 season way back in 1977/78, when they took Wrexham to a replay in the 5th Round of the FA Cup. And like Crawley, they have a song to commemorate their success. The difference? Blyth's was actually good and catchy:

In other notable efforts, they got to Reading in the 3rd Round in 1971/72, Stockport in 1995/96 in the 2nd Round, and at home to Blackburn Rovers in the 3rd Round in 2008/09, where a single goal and five leagues separated the two teams.

Even the most brainless supporter of The League of Foreign Millionaires wouldn't dismiss this ahem, plucky little non-league side as "shit," seeing as their history is seemingly unblemished with turmoil on or off the field. Going competitive in 1901, they prattled around in regional leagues until each one folded right before their eyes, until election to the Northern League in 1964. They remained here until 1994, already having been champions ten times and runners-up five times. After making it into the 1st Division of the Northern Premier League, they won a second consecutive promotion to the Premier Division. Despite missing the boat to the newly-established Conference North in 2004/05, they acted fast and earnt a place there in 2006. They've held their own here ever since.

To top it off, amidst countless esoteric cups, Blyth reached the FA Trophy Quarter Finals in '80 and '83, way back in their Northern League days. Their ambition a different flavour to the Shaymen's, we'll see which can out-muscle the other. Their striker Paul Brayson was one of the team that merked us at Newcastle Blue Star in our first season in this guise, before Blue Star imploded to everyone's indifference, their players leaving for Blyth and Spennymoor. Now aged 33, it will be our duty to find him a suitable retirement home. A final Spartizan claim-to-fame has been something a little out of keeping with their boundless triumphs:

The ground

Picture sources: 1 2 3

Yes, boys and girls, that really is a two-tiered stand. The entrepreneurial heads of Blyth have taken advantage of their recent earnings by creating a Conference-standard stadium. In 2003 new seating and concrete terracing was put in place, followed by an extended roof and bottom-tier seating for their main Port of Blyth Stand in 2007. All stands are now covered, just for us lucky travelling Shaymen. If you arrive at a place a little smaller-looking, you may have arrived at the ground of the aggressively non-league Blyth Town. The ground is located by the seaside, but hopefully there won't be as much broken glass and used condoms littering the pitch as there will be on the beach. Let's at least hope the seagulls aren't fishing in this one.

The town

130 miles from Halifax, getting to Blyth is a little more of a challenge than we've been used to. In Blyth, this translates to a derby: the poor bastards having to travel 90 and 100 miles respectively to get to local rivals Harrogate and Workington. It's a port town 15 miles up from Newcastle, so for those looking for a pub please stay in Blyth, and those looking for a night or seven of moral turpitude involving nearly-nekked Geordie lasses in Jägerbomb-freezing temperatures, please go to the Toon, not coming back until you've properly redeemed yourself. Either way, all Shaymen who will be patient enough with public transport will have to transfer at Newcastle. Trains run to the north-east from Leeds, and an overnight stay should be considered. And don't you even think of hitting the Toon with those dolly birds. They will never love you. Yes, I can tell you're thinking it. Just don't.

Blyth itself speaks of fishing, lighthouses, post-coal-mining depression and the inevitable regeneration, in which every boarded-up discount shop in the Blyth Ward will be replaced by a milk bar full of southerners by 2015.

Will we need to segregate?


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