This article appeared in the final league programme of the season against Grantham Town but here is a chance for supporters to read the thoughts of our Chairman Tony Platten on what has been an excellent season for Blyth Spartans.
Immediately after the Championship winning game against Halesowen Phil Castiaux spoke to Spartans’ Chairman Tony Platten.
So, Tony, we’ve won the League – how do you feel?
[Laughs] Well, the season got off to a very strange start. Tom (Wade) got us off but we’d known from the start of the season that Tom had retirement in mind. He thought he’d taken the club as far as he could. We made an appointment to replace him in the close season but the wheels came off. Then I got a text from Tom one night saying he had been speaking to someone who might be interested in on taking the manager role. So, he introduced me to Alun (Armstrong) and the season has since worked out perfectly for him.
It’s all the more amazing because Alun hasn’t manged at this kind of level before, isn’t it?
He was an excellent footballer though and has spent several years at Middlesbrough’s Academy plus he also runs his own football academy business. He lives football night and day. But, as you say, to manage at our level of football and do well is fantastic. Remember that we went through January and February unbeaten and that was the rock on which the rest of the season was built.
Something that happened last season was out of our hands and I still discuss it regularly with people on the League Management Committee. But it’s all behind us now and what we have to do is think positively and make sure we have the squad we need for what is a much higher level next year.
Alun has been assisted by Darren Holloway and Neil Hooks who themselves are new to management. They’ve done well too.
Yes, they’ve all worked well as a team. Obviously, Darren was a defender and Alun a forward with Neil being a midfielder. We have the best defence in the league and we score goals for fun. Although for one or two of the goals we’ve conceded the tactics could have been a bit better.
Talking, then, of next year do you think we need to increase the size of the squad or the quality of it?
I don’t think we need to increase the size of the squad. If Alun isn’t happy with people he’ll make decisions and make changes. That’s one of the differences now; Alun can see things happening on the pitch and make substitutions earlier in the game and not leave them till the last five minutes.
In the current squad, we have strength and versatility, for example at the back Jordan Watson has been doing well at centre back as well as left back.
Do you know much about the quality in the National League north and if we will indeed need to add more quality to the squad?
I think we’ve got quality players here now but I know there are some full-time clubs in that League. What happens with Spennymoor may affect us. It’s a strange situation with them. Do you want them to go up through the play-offs which would mean an excellent local derby in terms of finance but on the other hand the clubs would be in competition for north east players?
In some ways next season in the National North will be slightly easier for us. There are two teams less in the league and several local derbies and, believe or not, it looks like we may have to travel fewer miles over the course of the season than we do now. Plus, there will be fewer Tuesday night games which is good for the players in terms of getting holiday time off and there is no League Cup.
Do you think Alun will be looking for a bigger budget?
We’ve already discussed that and the budget is all down to the size of the crowds. Alun knows that every penny we make through the turnstiles and via our excellent sponsors will be available. In fact I have just got the good news that Fergusons have signed up for another town years of sponsoring the ‘Fergy Space Stand’ so all four stands will again be sponsored next season.
Do you envisage any changes in the Boardroom or the in the way things are done?
Well yes, as we announced recently Ian Evans, who has been at the club since I got involved with the club, is retiring as General Manager but will be on the Executive Committee. I don’t think either of us, back then, thought we’d still be involved 17 years later! And then there’s your good-self having to step down so we’re looking for the best person to replace you.
As you say you’ve been Chairman since the year 2000. How does this season’s success compare with the club’s other achievements in that time?
Well, every club likes the fantastic experiences of FA Cup runs. Fortunately, we’ve been in the third round twice while I’ve been here and not many Chairman can say that.
Do you think you will continue to be Chairman for a while yet?
I only signed up for three years! There’s not a whole lot of people lining up to take on the job but there will come a time. If someone came along right now and was interested, then I would encourage them because of all the jip I get from my wife about things like not being able to go on holiday when there might be a match!
The supporters have been great this season, haven’t they?
Yes, that’s right and when we go away we always have a minimum of 50 fans behind us.