Evo-Stik Northern Premier League promotion challengers Blyth Spartans have announced that manager Tom Wade has stepped down from his role at the club.
Former Middlesbrough, Ipswich Town and Stockport County striker Alun Armstrong has
immediately been appointed as his replacement.
Having spent time at the club in the early 2000’s, Wade returned to Spartans as assistant manager to Paddy Atkinson in October 2012, eventually succeeding Atkinson as Spartans manager in the following March.
Wade oversaw a dramatic turnover of players at Croft Park and led the club to successive play-off challenges, albeit unsuccessful ones.
However, his main contribution was to lead the club to the Third Round of the FA Cup in 2014/15, when Spartans bravely exited the competition at the hands of SkyBet Championship side Birmingham City.
There was to be silverware for the club at the end of that season, as they beat EBAC Northern League side Morpeth Town in the final of the Northumberland Senior Cup, their first success in the competition for over twenty years.
Last season saw the club agonisingly miss out on promotion into the Vanarama National League North, as an inspired run from Darlington saw them take top spot in the Evo-Stik NPL’s top tier, with Workington beating Spartans in a dramatic play-off semi-final at Croft Park.
The Northumberland club currently sit in second position in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, one point behind leaders Buxton.
Last weekend they were knocked out of the FA Cup by Morpeth Town and were beaten at Frickley Athletic on Tuesday night.
Now Wade has taken the decision to step down as Spartans boss and club chairman Tony Platten paid tribute to the work done by Wade during his time at the club.
Talking to the club’s official website Platten said “It is usual for managers to leave clubs when there are problems on the pitch, in terms of results. However, here at Blyth, we do it in a different way.
“Tom was very happy with the way things were working out on the pitch, but felt he had taken the club as far as he could and that – under the circumstances – a change was required. A unique opportunity then arose to bring to the club a new person with fresh ideas and drive and he jumped at the chance.
“After several unbelievably successful seasons at the club, including reaching the third round of the FA Cup and then being top of the League for the vast majority of last season – only to cruelly miss out on promotion – it would be normal for a manager to bask in the glory. Not Tom though, who has steered us to the top end of the league table already this time round.
“Tom, who was born and bred in Blyth and has always put the club first, identified the possibility of taking the club to a new level by bringing in the highly regarded Alun Armstrong”.
Armstrong began his career with Newcastle United, although never saw first team action.
A move to Stockport County proved to be a success, as he scored forty nine goals in one hundred and sixty games for the club.
He returned to the North East with Middlesbrough in 1998, before moving to Ipswich Town two years later.
In his time with the Suffolk outfit Armstrong scored two of the most famous goals of his career.
He scored as the Tractor Boys beat Serie A giants Inter Milan in the 2001/12 UEFA Cup at Portman Road, with Armstrong’s header being the only goal of the game.
He scored in the return leg at the San Siro but saw his side knocked out 4-2 on aggregate.
After leaving Ipswich, Armstrong went on to spend time with the likes of Darlington and Rushden and Diamonds before ending his career with a single appearance at Newcastle Blue Star in 2007.
Now he will move into a career in management with Spartans.
Wade will be in the dugout for the Spartans’ league game at Corby Town on Saturday, with former Middlesbrough striker Alun Armstrong taking over for their North East derby against Spennymoor Town at Croft Park on Tuesday night.
And Armstrong spoke to the club’s website upon being appointed, describing it as “something really special”.
He said “I can’t wait to get started. It’s a very exciting challenge for me and my main aim is to win promotion – after we so narrowly missed out on it last season. I’m used to challenges, from becoming a professional footballer to now running my own business and coaching at Middlesbrough. Becoming manager at a club like Blyth Spartans is something really special”
Article: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)