Blyth Spartans take on Skelmersdale United this weekend.

Sparkling Spartans

By Nick Toumazos. Thursday, 16 September 2004.
Blyth Spartans are one of the most famous names in FA Cup history - and manager Paul Baker is urging his boys to recreate the glory days in this season's competition.

The Unibond League club are famous for their giantkillings in the 1970s, when they produced some of the great Cup upsets. And they kick off their latest campaign against Skelmersdale United of the North West Countries Football League Division One on Saturday at Croft Park.

The First Qualifying Round seems a long way away from the Third Round Proper when Premiership clubs join the mix. But with so much history behind them, Blyth never take an FA Cup tie lightly.

In the 1977-78 season they recorded the most famous FA Cup run in their history when they reached the fifth round and travelled to Wales to play Wrexham.

In fact, they were unlucky not to win the match as Wrexham scored a controversial last minute equaliser.

The replay was played at St James' Park, Newcastle only a short distance from Blyth. And the brave giantkillers were eventually beaten 2-1 on an emotional night when a victory would have set up a wonderful home match against Arsenal in the next round.

In more recent years Blyth enjoyed a good FA Cup run in the 1995-96 season were they reached the second round proper, before eventually losing to Stockport County. This run included a 2-0 away victory over Third Division Bury, who went on to gain promotion that year to the Second Division.

Other major FA Cup giant killings involving Blyth Spartans include memorable wins against the likes of Gillingham, Hartlepool United, Crewe Alexander, Chesterfield and Stoke City.

Blyth manager Paul Baker remembers growing up as a boy and watching the club make history, and he hopes the current team can repeat their memorable FA Cup giant killings of the past.

He said: "I was fortunate enough to live and experience that era and I'd love the club to get to those heights again. I remember those days as a boy and that was fantastic, but to be part of it and achieving it would be great.

"Hopefully we can progress as far in the competition as we can. There's also money available to be won, so revenue wise it would be important."

Former Blackburn and Aston Villa player Graham Fenton is now playing his football at Croft Park. The experienced midfielder has been made Paul Baker's assistant manager this season and his experience will be vital to Blyth both in the league and in The FA Cup, as Baker explained:

"Graham is a very valuable player, very experienced and he's seen a lot so he can help the younger lads come through and he helps me a lot, that's why I made him assistant manager this season. He's also a very good footballer."

There are also other players that could end up being Blyth's FA Cup heroes this season, such as youngster Ben Summers or August player of the month, full-back Steve Harrison.

Baker said: "Steve Harrison's been fantastic so far, long may it continue. Look out for young Ben Summers who I bought him in from Darlington in the summer. But it's unfair to pick out just one or two players."

Blyth will be looking to progress to the next round of The FA Cup on Saturday - and will feature in BBC's Football Focus as the spotlight falls on Croft Park. But the real dream of course is to reach the Third Round proper - and draw local rivals Newcastle United!

"To get Newcastle United in the Third Round would be fantastic for the club and the fans," said Baker. "But any league club at any standard would be great. We'll be trying to reach the dizzy heights of the past."


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