Retirement U-turn as legend Dale re-signs for Spartans
North East non-league legend Robbie Dale has come out of retirement to return to Blyth Spartans ahead of the new National League North season.
The mercurial forward scored 212 goals in 680 appearances for the Croft Park club before announcing his retirement last October.
Dale has been training with Michael Nelson’s side recently and has now agreed to form part of the former Hartlepool United defender’s squad for the upcoming season.
He will be reunited with a number of former Spartans team-mates after Nelson enticed the likes of Nathan Buddle, Dan Maguire, Michael Liddle and Nicky Deverdics back to the club throughout a hectic summer in the transfer market.
Dale’s return will be immediate, and he featured in Spartans opening pre-season friendly against a Middlesbrough XI at Croft Park on Saturday.
The winger explained the circumstances behind his decision to resume his playing career after a 12-month absence, and said he was looking forward to rekindling his love affair with a club close to his heart.
He said: “I think it’s the right time. I’ve missed it, I think one final year.
“I messaged Neesh (club physio Gary Neesham) and just asked if he could put a session on before the lads were training just for me, just to get some fitness because I hate running on my own.
“It all started from there, I got involved a few weeks later to help with numbers and then it’s snowballed over the last few weeks.
“It’s been 17 years, it’s the only real club I’ve known.
“I’ve had a couple of teams before but the majority of my adult life, I’ve been here.
“I didn’t want to leave in the first place, I wanted to finish off a nice year and probably have a closing day properly for myself.”
Supporters were on hand to witness Dale’s return as the Green Army made their way to Croft Park for the first time since February 2020.
Their absence has been felt, with Spartans forced to play National League North fixtures behind closed doors throughout last season.
Dale paid tribute to the Spartans supporters and is hoping to repay their faith upon his return to the fold.
“They are tremendous, they follow us everywhere we go,” he said.
“We need them, we need them in this ground, as many as we can get in for every game, and away we need them.
“All of their support, all they do for us, we owe them a lot because we wouldn’t have a club without them."
Michael Nelson, manager of Blyth Spartans, said “I don’t need to tell any of the fans about Robbie Dale as I’m sure they’ve seen a lot more of him than me over the years.
“Robbie made a tough decision last year in the midst of this pandemic and I think it never really sat right with him.
“He came in training through the summer with some of the group and then has been involved pre-season. I think just being back involved along with the squad we’ve put together has reignited his fire. He is definitely fit enough and certainly has the quality to add to the squad we’ve already assembled.”