Non League Daily

Mark Carruthers: A New Way Of Thinking

A new way of thinking: my introduction to life at Non-League level
It's been a rollercoaster two years, that's the easiest way to sum up my introduction to Non-League football. I don't mind admitting that before I joined Blyth Spartans as their Press Officer I would consider myself to be an elitist football fan. I had a season ticket at Newcastle United and watched the Premier League and La Liga religiously on Sky. However that all changed when I came across an opportunity to good to miss.

Blyth Spartans Press Officer Mark Carruthers joined the club in 2012 Blyth Spartans Press Officer Mark Carruthers joined the club in 2012

 

Harbouring a long term ambition to get into the media I saw a vacancy for Press Officer advertised at Evo-Stik Northern Premier League club Blyth Spartans. I sent in my information, got an interview and to my delight got the job. I am sure the club wont mind me saying that they were in a bit of a rut at the time. Recently relegated from the Blue Square North (now the Skrill North) after a shockingly poor campaign, a threadbare squad and a general sense of negativity lingering around the club. I was sure that would change but more than anything was relishing the opportunity to get going.

My first competitive game with the club was away at Witton Albion and the first sign of what was to become a passion for the club and Non-League in general were on display. A last minute penalty condemned Spartans to defeat in a game that really set the tone for what was to follow. A first home game against Stocksbridge Park Steels saw a comprehensive 5-0 win over a poor Steels side and a promising start to the campaign gave way to what turned into an absolute non-entity of a season.

To sum it up by the end of the season the club had racked up three managers, four cup exits, an 8-1 away defeat at Worksop Town, a depressingly poor 5-0 home loss to AFC Fylde in which Spartans were 4-0 down by twenty minutes in and had used a spectacular amount of players throughout the campaign. Personally there were many bad memories, such as being spat on at full time at Worksop Town after the aforementioned hammering.

However I could take one thing from the season it was that it gave me a great insight into just what Blyth Spartans – and Non-League football in general - means to the supporters.

I saw passion, frustration, joy and anger all in equal measures and got thoroughly caught up in it. This was unlike anything I had experienced before and whilst at St James Park I was merely watching what unfolded before me, this time I was part of it. Off the park there was a success as the club won the PR Club of Year award at the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League end of season awards night. This was in recognition for the work we had done in promoting the club and working with charities in the local area. The club embraced the notion that whilst supporters care greatly about their club it is the duty of any non-league club to show their supporters they matter too.

As I reflected on my first season with Spartans the most prominent thought in my mind was the reaction of supporters to work I had done. There was no taking your work for granted, there was real delight at what had been produced by the media team. The supporters want to know what was going on at the club and rightly so, no matter who the directors or owners of any club are, deep down the club will always belong to it's supporters.

The negativity carried on into the summer as a tight budget saw manager Tom Wade and his assistant Colin Myers opt for a younger squad full of promising players. They were supported by a small number of more experienced players but the general mood outside of the club seemed to show that a season of struggle was expected. However as with every rollercoaster after a low, a high inevitably follows and it dutifully did so.

Being in and around the players I sensed something different. There was confidence and a belief that would support them throughout the season. What has gone on this season at Croft Park has been a revelation. An unlikely play off challenge, a number of bigger clubs have been beaten, players have represented an England 'C' side, two of our players have been voted into the League Team of the Year, one of our strikers has smashed through the twenty goal barrier and on Tuesday night the club sealed a place in the Northumberland Senior Cup Final with a thrilling 3-2 win over Ashington. That sees the club rewarded with a Final that takes place at St James Park in two weeks time against Newcastle United Under 21s.

This season I have also ventured away from Spartans to take in some Northern League games and one thing strikes me throughout. Every club has the same characters, the same passions, the same quirks and to sum it up in one phrase I have used many times "In the professional game you are a number, a face a pound sign, just another body. At Non-League level you matter and you are part of something special. You are part of a club"

It's an absolute honour to be asked to write for Non-League Daily and I look forward to sharing my thoughts in future.

 

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