Blyth Spartans Association Football Club is a football club based in Blyth, Northumberland. They are currently members of the National League North, the sixth tier of English football, and play at Croft Park.
They were founded in September 1899 by Fred Stoker, who was the club's first secretary before forming a practice as a distinguished physician in London's Harley Street. He thought it appropriate to name the team after the Greek Spartan army in the hope that the players would give their all as they went into 'battle' on the field of play. The club is most notable for its 1977–78 FA Cup campaign, in which they went all the way to the 5th round only to be beaten by Wrexham in a replay at St James' Park.
In the beginning, the club played only friendly matches before joining the East Northumberland League in 1901. The first recorded honour was a league success in 1901 followed by further victories in 1905–06 and 1906–07. The club then joined the Northern Alliance, remaining there for six seasons winning the league in 1908–09 and 1912–13.
In 1913 the club moved upward joining the ranks of the semi professionals in the North Eastern League and remained there until this league folded in 1958. The fierce competition meant that honours were few and far between. However they won the league in the 1936–37 season and the league cup in 1950 and again in 1955. After the demise of the North Eastern League the club tried their luck in the Midland League and Northern Counties League, both ending when the leagues folded. The early 1960s saw the revival of the North Eastern League with the club doing quite well. However the league suffered many problems and eventually folded for good.
The club was now at a loss for a suitable semi-professional league and in 1964 decided to turn amateur and join the ranks of the Northern League. During the 29 years the club were members their record was second to none, winning the Championship on 10 occasions and being runners up 5 times. However, a new regime at the club were keen to progress up the league pyramid and a successful push ended with promotion to the Northern Premier League in the 1993–94 season.
Rise up the pyramid
The club's first season in the Northern Premier League was memorable, winning the First Division Championship and the Unifilla First Division League Cup. Since gaining promotion the club has held its own in the Premier division, finishing 6th and 7th in its first two seasons as well as lifting the President's Cup defeating former Conference side Runcorn in the final.
Following this success the executive looked firstly to John Charlton (son of Jack Charlton) followed by Paul Baker as team managers but they were unable to continue this success, disappointing fans.
Harry Dunn's success and the Conference North
Harry Dunn was appointed as manager for the second time in October 2004. In 2005–06 Dunn and his assistant Graham Fenton led the Spartans to win the Northern Premier League Premier Division as well as the Northern Premier League Chairman's Cup and the Peter Swailes Memorial Shield, and with it promotion to the Conference North.
In their first season in the Conference North, Blyth cemented themselves in the top half of the table whilst even enjoying a brief stint in 1st place. The season ended with Blyth narrowly missing out on a playoff position on the final day finishing 7th.
However the next season, Blyth found themselves at the opposite end of the table although some wins towards the end of the season (including a 2–0 win against future Champions, Kettering Town) saw Blyth preserve their Conference North status. The third season was a similar story with Blyth struggling for much of the season but wins towards the end of the season again avoided relegation. A relatively comfortable 15th-place finish did not reflect the battle against relegation which had preceded it.
After two successful campaigns to preserve Conference North status, the 2008–09 season saw the end of Harry Dunn's second spell at Croft Park. No time was wasted in appointing his successor and on 9 May former Hartlepool United, Darlington & Sheffield United Reserves Manager Mick Tait took up the post for his second spell in charge at Croft Park.
Relegation and decline
It was announced in May 2011 that then Whitley Bay assistant manager Steve Cuggy would take over as manager. He along with his assistant Gavin Fell made a complete overhaul of the squad that summer, letting popular players such as Robbie Dale leave. After initial excitement following a good pre-season, the performances on the pitch were extremely poor. However Blyth just got into the FA Cup 1st round after beating Droylsden 2–1 at home in the 4th qualifying round replay before losing 2–0 to rivals Gateshead. Following defeat by Halifax Town Steve Cuggy left the club in December. Later that month, former Newcastle United player Tommy Cassidy took charge but the poor performances continued. Finally, on 24 March 2012, Blyth Spartans had their first ever relegation confirmed after a 1–0 home defeat to Gloucester City.
The following pre-season saw Blyth lose quality players who were not replaced. The season started with mixed results and after very early exits from the FA Cup & the FA Trophy, Cassidy was sacked. In October under caretaker manager Paddy Atkinson poor performance continued including an 8–1 away defeat to Worksop Town. On 8 March Paddy Atkinson resigned.
Tom Wade era
On 12 March 2013 it was announced that a further caretaker manager, Tom Wade, would be in post until the end of the season. After some improved results, in early April Wade was given a contract extension for the 2013–14 season. That summer Wade brought in promising youngsters including Rob Nolan and Dean Holmes from North Shields. In early August Arran Wearmouth signed from Bishop Auckland for a fee of £1500. In the 2014–15 season the Spartans won the Northumberland Senior Cup and played against Championship side Birmingham City in the third round of the FA Cup.
In the 2015–16 season, despite frustrating displays in almost every cup competition, the Spartans proved to be the dominant side in their league. However, even having reached the impressive 99-point mark, they were beaten to the title by Darlington 1883 and lost the play-off semi-final to Workington A.F.C. which ended 4–3 to the away team. Ten days later, Blyth lost 4–3 again, this time to Northern League side North Shields in the Northumberland Senior Cup Final at St. James's Park.
After a heavy 4–2 home defeat to Morpeth Town in the 2016-17 FA Cup, Wade resigned. Former professional footballer Alun Armstrong took over the managerial position.
The club announced on 22 September 2016 that former Ipswich Town striker Alun Armstrong was appointed as manager following Wade's resignation. His first three games as manager weren't pretty but also weren't a preview of what the rest of the season would look like for Blyth, as the Spartans would never again in the 2016–17 play three consecutive games without a win. In fact, they managed two 12-game runs without recording a single defeat. In the first one, which lasted from the beginning of 2017 until the dying days of February, the Spartans won all of their twelve games, scoring 44 goals and conceding a mere 11. The run was ended by fellow title contenders (and ultimately second-place finishers and play-off winners) Spennymoor. They clinched the league title at home against Halesowen Town with three games to spare. Blyth finished in first place with 101 points, two more than the previous season and 14 ahead of the runners-up. The Evo Stik Northern Premier League title was Armstrong's first title was a manager, followed just a few days later by his second, the Northumberland Senior Cup, whose final was a replay of the previous year's, this time ending in a 3–2 win for the Spartans.
The success achieved by the club in the 2016–17 season meant that the Spartans were once again promoted to the National League North, five years after their relegation in 2012.
In late 2018, Blyth Spartans made worldwide news for signing a sponsorship deal with North Korean travel company Visit North Korea, the move attracted controversy from some commentators due to the country's human rights record.
On 1 June 2019, Blyth Spartans announced the appointment of former Newcastle United and Sunderland midfielder Lee Clark as their new manager. Lee has past Football League experience managing the likes of Birmingham City and Huddersfield Town. Under Clark, Spartans lost their first four league matches of the season, before picking up a point at Bradford Park Avenue.
This page also has a version in other languages: Блайт Спартанс (russian)