Phil Castiaux catches up with long term Spartans fan Malcolm Stephenson who discusses his volunteering role at the club.
Malcolm, let’s get started by you telling me a little about yourself.
“Well, I’m 56 years old and have been supporting Blyth since 1977 when my first game was the Burscough one in our famous FA Cup run.
There have been so many highlights like the visits to St, James’ Park and any Cup run we’ve been involved with like games against Bury, Blackpool, Hartlepool and Birmingham; fantastic.
I’ve worked for the health service for about 30 years as a qualified nurse although I’m semi-retired now and act as a support worker for older people. It’s a great job, doing something you enjoy and getting paid for it!
Your main role at the club is helping in the Sponsor’s Lounge. What is it you do up there?
Along with my wife Shirley we run the bar which means getting there about 45 minutes before kick-off and serving drinks, then then again at half time and at fulltime. Visiting officials are upstairs after the game as well as the sponsors. It’s great and good way of meeting people and it makes you feel part of the club rather than just coming to watch the game. You’re part of the club; part of the team really. I’ve been doing it about ten years now. I saw the role advertised on the web and I thought ‘Oh, I’ll ring in about that.’
The sponsors are different firms and different people associated with the club. Once a season I sponsor a game myself to give something back to the club. That’s the best thing about it – giving something back and it’s quite a sociable thing to do. It suits me fine. To paraphrase John F Kennedy: ‘Ask not what your football club can do for you – ask what you can do for your football club!’
So, when you sponsor a game you must enjoy a ‘day off’?
Actually, no. I bring two guests who enjoy the hospitality but I still work behind the bar. It’s just a normal match-day for me; I’m still working.
What’s the down side to what you do there? Washing the dishes?
No that’s not a problem. I do all the cooking in our house. One of the biggest problems however was when the bar was busy and I missed part of the game which, of course, is the fundamental reason for coming to Croft Park. So, I bring Shirley with me now so she can finish off at the bar and I can watch the game! She doesn’t mind at all.
You are also a contributor to the Matchday Programme. Tell me a little about what that entails.
Sure. I’ve been writing for it for six or seven years now; the ‘The View From the Terraces’.
I think about what’s happening at the club and things like what I’ve taken from games I’ve seen. You do have to rack your brains sometimes but being a bit of a ground-hopper helps. My claim to fame is being the first and only Blyth Spartans fan to have been to all the league grounds in England and Scotland plus all National League grounds. Once I even took in five games in one day. I’ve a very understanding wife who knows that every Saturday I’m away somewhere!
The page for the Programme usually takes about an hour by the time you write it, read it back again, check for spelling mistakes and make sure the information is correct. Sometimes it gets really busy when there’s a home match on the Saturday and then the Tuesday. The deadlines have to be hit and, as I’ve said, I’m semi-retired now but the Programme stuff still has to fit in around work.
Finally, do you think Blyth can get promoted this season?
Yes, I think we will, definitely. It’ll be close with some ups and downs but I think we’ll do it in the end. Mind you if we do go up it will be a really tough challenge next season. We’ll have to build and consolidate. We shouldn’t expect too much straight away.