Jordan Cronin column: I learnt my trade in a land of legends where the sporting life is never dull

Well, I thought I’d be best off using my first column to formally introduce myself.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 12:36 pm
Blyth Spartans legend Robbie Dale. (Photo credit: Blyth Spartans AFC/ Bill Broadley)

Some of you may already be familiar with my name through Blyth Spartans but my affiliation with South East Northumberland started well before then.

My first day in sports journalism, if you like, actually came at Bedlington Terriers’ Dr. Pit Welfare Park in October 2015 when I was press officer at Seaham Red Star.

I studied my journalism degree at the University of Sunderland and was pointed in the direction of Seaham to gain some experience – that explains why I was covering a club all the way in County Durham, if you were wondering!

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Welfare Park on my first visit but a giant scoreboard… that wasn’t on my list. That, we know, only tells half the story in a proud and eventful history for the Terriers.

Ashington is another and a football club I have had the pleasure of visiting on many occasions. Woodhorn Lane is a fantastic ground and it certainly wouldn’t look out of place higher up the football pyramid.

It’s also a town that has been the birthplace of a number of legends – Jack and Bobby Charlton, Jackie Milburn and ex-England cricketer Steve Harmison to name a few.

By the way, I’d include regular News Post Leader contributor and long-serving press man Brian Bennett in that bracket too!

And then onto Cramlington Juniors, a youth club that has nurtured some fine talent over the years.

It’s often overlooked that Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer once donned their red and white colours, while Jack Colback did it for Cramlington and Sunderland before joining the Magpies and now Nottingham Forest.

Former Toon defenders Steven Taylor and Peter Ramage were also once on their books as well as current South Shields manager Graham Fenton.

Of course, I can’t not mention Blyth Spartans, "the most famous non-league club in the world”, as FA Secretary Ted Croker famously said.

Trust me, he was and still is correct. Spartans are the FA Cup killers – 1977/78, 2008/09 and 2014/15 will never be forgotten. Hopefully, there are many more to add to that list very, very soon.

And on that subject, I was extremely delighted to catch up with Harry Dunn, the man who led Blyth to the third round in 2015 at home to Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers, to chat all-things Robbie Dale.

The supporters of Blyth raised a fantastic £5,000 for a mural of Robbie to recognise his 15 years of service – which included 680 appearances and 212 goals.

That will simply never been beaten again at any level, so a big well done goes out to everyone who donated to such a worthy and lasting tribute.

Sunderland-based Frank Styles, who has carried out similar work involving Black Cats legends Kevin Phillips and Raich Carter, got the ball rolling last Tuesday, so I thought what better than to chat with the man that signed Robbie, 16 years ago.

I really enjoyed speaking to such an iconic figure in the history of Spartans, especially hearing his story on how Robbie almost never joined. Can you imagine that?!

I’ve only briefly touched on some of the proud stories that surround sport in our towns but I hope that re-emphasises how special this part of the region is.

That is why I am honoured to have been asked to lead the sports coverage for the News Post Leader and serve this wonderful community.

That said, I don’t just want it to be me thinking of content. I want to hear from you, the residents of South East Northumberland, on what sports stories you’d like me to cover.

So please, if you have any ideas, don’t hesitate to get in touch. This is your local paper and we’re here to write about the stories you care passionately about.

Away from our leading grassroots scene, I’ll also be offering my view on a club just down the road called Newcastle United.

It’s never dull at St James’ Park, as that has proven to be the case during our time in lockdown.

A stalled takeover. A relegation battle. Steve Bruce in or out? It’s a club always in the headlines and one I can’t help but have an opinion on, no matter how hard I try and get away from it.

Just over a month ago, Steve Bruce’s position as head coach was untenable but somehow he has managed to turn it around to some degree.

I say some degree because this season should not have been about a relegation battle for Newcastle. It had promised much, much more.

With the signings of Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser etc, the club, I think, should have been challenging higher up the table, possibly even top 10.

At any other club, two wins in 20 would have been enough for anyone to be sacked but as we know, Newcastle are like no other.

I don’t think they’ll go down now. Fulham had their chance(s) and they completely blew it.

As much as supporters want the club to push on, their ambition starts from the top and Mike Ashley is a man who will always accept the bare minimum.

So once again, I look forward to bringing you an unrivalled insight into our area’s grassroots scene and delving more into topics surrounding Newcastle.

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