Its the Football Supporters Federation’s Non-League Day this coming Saturday and we at true faith have pin-pointed two canny games which we think would appeal to the Black & White cognoscenti. One of these games is at none other than Blyth Spartans and their brilliant Croft Park.
I love the Spartans Green & White striped shirt, Black shorts and I love the whole atmosphere around Croft Park, which just screams of the traditions of football – a nearby pub, a chippy and a support that by and large walks to games from their homes.
This Saturday, Blyth is taking on Grantham with a 3pm KO. If you are looking for a place to go to watch football, get yourself along to take this game. You won’t be disappointed I’m sure. Well, you might, but that’s football.
But before you go, arm yourself with the true faith Bluffers Guide to Blyth Spartans written by true faith’s very own Blyth-lad, Alex Hurst. Swot up here:
Blyth Spartans is the region’s largest and best supported Non Leaguefootball club. Despite being two leagues below close rivals Gateshead the club still attracts more supporters and still get up to 500 fans for home games.
Famously dubbed by one time FA Secretary Ted Croker a s ‘The Most Famous Non League football team in the world’ Blyth has an illustrious history. Great players and games are synonymous with the club and it has as proud a history as any other local non League club.
Formed in 1899, the club joined the Northumberland League and then the Northern Alliance in the pre-war period. The club won their first Northern Alliance Title in 1909 and the club moved to become a semi-professional outfit in 1913 after another historic league success. The club returned to the amateur leagues in 1964 in what was to become a golden period for the club becoming one of the most successful amateur clubs in England. In the club’s 29 years they won 10 league titles and were runners up on 5 occasions. The club won promotion to the Northern Premier League (now known as the Evo Stick – one league below the Conference) in 1993 and rapid success was to follow in what’s considered the golden age of the club’s league history. Winning the First Division and League Cup in their first ever season the club then finished 6th and 7th the following season.
A host of big name managers have come and gone since then, including Ex-United gaffer Jack Charlton, but the club has failed to kick on and get into the Conference. The last half of the 200’s was spend flirting with promotion to the promised land but it was narrowly missed out on several times. Relegation followed after several managerial changes and the club is back in the Evo Stick First Division. The season has started brightly and fans are cautiously optimistic of a promotion challenge this year.
It is the FA Cup however which most people know Blyth Spartans for. The club have qualified for the first round proper an astonishing 32 times; the second round 15 times; the fourth round 4 times and incredibly the 4th and 5th round on occasion each. Blyth remains the most successful non-league club in history in terms of the FA CUP.
Famously they were watched by a crowd of 42,167 at St James’ Park for their fifth round tie against Wrexham in 1977-8. An incredible achievement for a non-league team. They went down 2 – 1 on the day but on the way to the 5th round beat Second Division Chesterfield and Stoke. In 2008 they reached the 3rd round and played Allardyce’s Blackburn side at Croft park in front of 3,00 fans. A 1-0 defeat was no shame and Blyth should have least got a replay out of it.
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