Blyth Spartans were hours away from liquidation in 2000 but are now on much steadier ground after making their Croft Park home is a must-visit for many football fans.
The Spartans were awarded the Football Supporters Association (FSA) Away Day Experience of the Year prize at the Non-League Paper's National Game Awards in association with Buildbase in recognition of the vibrant and accommodating atmosphere the club’s staff and fans generate.
All staff make an effort to speak to visitors, and chairman Tony Platten hopes that more clubs will follow suit and help develop relations across the non-league football community.
“I’m delighted people have found the experience at Blyth Spartans so good,” said Platten.
“All of our executive committee make a point, if we see someone who isn’t wearing away team colours, and we don’t recognise their face, we go up to them and say ‘hello, what are you doing here.’
“That is what non-league football is all about.”
Blyth were the overall winners of the award, with the FSA also commending Maidenhead United, Merthyr Town and Clitheroe at each step of the non-league pyramid.
And Platten is delighted that Blyth are once again making headlines for the right reasons, having saved them from extinction when he first got involved with the club in 2000.
“Blyth Spartans were about to go bust, arguably the biggest non-league team” Platten recalled.
“We had to get a cheque to the inland revenue in Morpeth before 4pm for £54,000.
“Had we not got that across the road, Blyth Spartans wouldn’t be here.
“I got involved in 2000, I was in Canada at the time, but the transaction went through. Blyth Spartans are still here and I’m very proud that in my time as chairman we’ve got through to the FA Cup third round twice.
“I know lots of chairman of non-league teams who would love to have it once, I’m lucky enough to have had it twice.”
Since 1978, the Green Army have reached the third round on just two occasions, losing by the odd goal to Blackburn Rovers in 2009 and Birmingham City in 2015.
A difficult 2021/22 season saw Platten’s side finish 19th in the National League North, just eight points clear of relegation.
But spurred on by an award-winning home support, he is confident of an upturn in results next term.
“The last three years have been an absolute pain, we’ve had some difficulties with managers. Our aspiration this season was just to stay in the league and survive.
“I’m pleased to say we did that and now we have Terry Mitchell in charge, he’s doing a great job for us.
“Now it’s up to Terry to prove his credentials with the team he’s picked.”
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