Wade proud to follow in the footsteps of hero Slane

Blyth Spartans were already firmly established as FA Cup giantkillers when the 1977/78 season kicked off. During that campaign the big names were to fall at the feet of Brian Slane’s side as high profile Non-League sides Burscough and Enfield were seen off. League opposition in the form of Chesterfield and Stoke City were defeated as a record run was played out.

Nobody connected with football in the North East will forget the FA Cup Fifth Round tie against Wrexham as Spartans were controversially robbed of a Quarter Final fixture against Arsenal. In the tie against the Welsh outfit a controversial last minute equaliser saw Wrexham force a replay that would be played at St James Park.

Another debatable decision – this time a penalty – helped the Welsh side to a 2-1 victory over a brave Spartans team who were given a heroes ovation as they left the pitch as the names of Steve Carney, Eddie Alder and Terry Johnson were written into FA Cup and Blyth Spartans folklore.

Amongst the remarkable crowd of 42,000 at the home of Newcastle United was current Spartans manager Tom Wade, a lifelong supporter of the Croft Park club. Now Wade follows in the footsteps of his boyhood hero Slane as he take Spartans into the FA Cup First Round on Sunday as Conference side Altrincham come to Croft Park, something Wade describes as an “honour”.

“All of my family will be there on Sunday and I know people in the crowd from travelling to grounds when I was younger. It’s a privilege to be in charge of my club and one that I don’t take for granted. Brian Slane was my hero and was an unbelievable goalscorer, he is a legend at the club.

As a manager I am nowhere near where he was but to be following in the footsteps of someone I idolised as a kid is very special for not only me but for my family as well”

The 1977/78 cup run will always hold a special place in the hearts of the Green Army as the generation who followed the club at the time pass down their first hand accounts of what was achieved to their children and grandchildren. That is something that Wade has also done and he was enthusiastic in his recollections of a remarkable side.

“There are big memories and I think nearly twenty buses went to Wrexham. It was a great occasion and a fantastic time for the town. The likes of Terry Johnson, Ron Guthrie, John Waterson and Dave Varty were fantastic players and they were big characters. They were great lads because they weren’t big charlies and played for the love of the game”

Wade revealed that some of the current members of the Spartans squad had asked about the key members of that 1977/78 side and that he was only too happy to talk about them. However the current incumbent of the manager’s seat at Croft Park brushed off suggestions that the club’s rich history would affect the players, stating that they “thrive on it”

“I was talking to a couple of our players last week about that side and they asked about what kind of side it was. For me they were a side of big men. People like Ronnie Scott, Keith Houghton and Steve Carney were big players and strong men. We are young lads but we are getting better and to do what we are doing in remarkable.

People think the weight of history weighs heavily on players at this club but the lads in the dressing room thrive on it. They are young lads and they want to make names for themselves so to hear them asking about the great sides of the past is refreshing and shows what the club means to them all”

As well as the distinctive green and white stripes and the unique name of the club if you were to ask supporters what they associate with Blyth Spartans it’s a fair bet that the FA Cup would be brought up. For Wade the competition is something that not only remains special for the club but also for the town as a whole and he admitted he can’t wait to see the turnout at Croft Park on Sunday.

“The club have been great in the competition haven’t they? You look at what Harry Dunn did here in 2009 and the atmosphere at the Blackburn game was brilliant. The competition is special and makes this club and more importantly the town feel special. It gives us a buzz and a lift. The town gets behind us and I am sure they will do that in their numbers on Sunday”

Posted by BSAFC Admin