After a lifetime in football Blyth Spartans’ manager Mick Tait is as much in love with game as ever.
A weary performance from his team in their 2-0 defeat at Gainsborough on Saturday in the final game of the season did nothing to diminish his ardour.
“I wish the season could go on for another couple of months, I don’t need a break,” he enthused.
“I just love what I do. I’m already excited about next year and I’m working now on getting new faces into the club.”
He did concede, however, that the close season will come as something of a relief for his players.
“The match as Gainsborough summed it up – it was a game too far for us after playing so much recently with a small squad. It’s meant I’ve been unable to change things much and the lads really deserve a pat on the back for doing so well in the circumstances. We had no legs on Saturday, no energy at all. It was a tired performance which, as I say, is understandable. We just couldn’t get close enough to compete and were second best.”
To be fair a hot spring day didn’t help either side and even the match officials needed to have water bottles on the touchline to provide welcome relief.
The teams entered the pitch to the tune ‘Local Hero’ which was apt as the home fans welcomed former player Richard Pell back to the Northholme ground.
The game itself began as a vapid affair which was not enlivened till Lewis McMahon was quicker to the ball than Blyth’s Gareth Williams and drilled his shot past Bell to put the home side a goal up. The only spark in the Spartans first 45 minutes was when John Alexander chased down what seemed a lost cause and centred for Paul Brayson whose effort was parried away by Barnes in the home goal.
Blyth went two down eight minutes into the second half when Beckett found himself with space at the far post to hook the ball into the corner of the net from close range.
Simon Todd then replaced Williams and Pell assumed the Captain’s armband.
Blyth mustered a brief flurry of activity when Ian Graham and then Simon Todd blasted over when well placed and Paul Brayson just failed to get to a low Graham cross.
Tait, as after recent games, reflected on conceding goals too easily.
“For their first we should have been able to clear the ball. A bit jaded, giving the goal away put us under more pressure. The longer we could have gone without conceding the longer we would have kept our spirits up.
“The second goal came from a long throw and we really should have had someone closer to Beckett.”
The introduction of midfielder Todd provided a bit of much needed vitality to Blyth’s showing with him getting a hold of the ball well and speeding up the play.
With hindsight Tait thought he should have made the switch at half time but was reluctant to do so with full back John Brackstone struggling with an injury and little other cover on the bench.
Tait felt for the travelling support who turned up in Lincolnshire in their numbers.
“As much as we all wanted to give them something to shout about we had nothing in the tank but we do appreciate the support we’ve had all season.”
Blyth finished the season 13th in the League – an improvement on last year and Tait, in his first time operating at Blue Square North level has learned some valuable lessons.
“I picked up on lots of things, one of which is the need to be able to adopt different styles of play. I believe we did this quite well alternating the way we played from the autumn through the winter period of difficult pitches to more recently. I also discovered they are many really good forwards in the League and that we need to improve defensively.”
The thing which provided Tait with the most satisfaction of the campaign was some excellent performances.
“Some of the displays have been outstanding,” he said. “We produced scintillating displays like when we beat Hinckley 6-1 at Croft Park and could have done the same in the away game, plus when we murdered Droylsden away in the first half. Then take Corby, and Ilkeston, they’re not better teams than us.”
“But the downside of the season has been our inconsistency and the way we’ve gifted goals to the opposition.
“ I know what we need to do and the players do too. We are only a fraction away from being a decent side,” Tait suggested.
One of Tait’s immediate priorities will be to secure the signature on the League’s leading goalscorer Paul Brayson.
“I certainly hope he stays. Brassie ( Brayson) has given no indication that he is unhappy – quite the opposite. I’m sure he appreciates the service he’s had from the others. We do have some excellent ‘providers’ in the squad who Brassie had fed from.”
The Blyth boss may have a more difficult task in keeping a hold of former Darlington captain and centre back Steve Foster who is looking to return to the professional game.
It is likely to be a busy few months for Tait as he moves to secure players.
“I will be looking to strengthen all areas and already have players in mind,” he said.
So, no rest for the weary in Tait’s case. And you sense that July, when pre-season training starts again, just can’t come quick enough for him.