TOM WADE says Blyth Spartans’ returning FA Cup heroes Stephen Turnbull and Jarrett Rivers will be a big shot in the arm for their Evo-Stik NPL Premier promotion challenge.
The duo famously put League Two side Hartlepool to the sword on live TV back in December 2014. Turnbull curled in a wonderful free-kick, before Rivers grabbed the second in their 2-1 win.
Then working in his mum’s newsagents, Rivers became the national media’s second-round darling and was soon on the move to Blackpool.
But the North West club were in turmoil and boss Lee Clark left almost immediately after the winger arrived. Relegation to League Two followed.
The 22-year-old has been back at Spartans this pre-season and Wade says the club can help reignite his career.
“He’s been coming to training for the last six weeks,” Wade told The NLP. “We’ve said, ‘come back, play a few games, and hopefully you’ll get away to the League again’. He’s more than good enough. He just went to the wrong club.
“The situation was probably worse than everyone knew. If Lee Clark had stopped there, he would have got the best out of Jarrett.
“But he’s still very young and very sharp. He looks a top player. He’s frightening going forward, he’s got a lot of pace, and I think he feels his home is at Blyth.
“When he was at Blackpool, a lot of Blyth supporters went to watch him. They don’t forget you.
“He’s a cult figure at Blyth. He likes to feel at home, so he’ll enjoy it here and go again. To have him on one side and Robbie Dale on the other is pretty special going forward.”
Midfielder Turnbull is also pulling on the famous North East colours again. He left after Christmas as part of his job as a ship engineer.
Now, he’s back from sea for the whole of the coming season and boss Wade, whose side finished as runners-up last season, says the 29-year-old is invaluable.
“It’s great news, he was a massive miss,” Wade said. “To be honest, if he hadn’t gone away at Christmas, we probably would have won the league. That’s how valuable he is.
“He’s a big part of Blyth, a bit of a Blyth legend and he’s got so much confidence in there. Matty Pattison has signed from Gateshead this summer. He’s top-drawer. Gavin Caines has come in from Rushall and we’ve got some young lads from last year. We’ve got a stronger squad and good depth. That will give us a decent chance.”
Despite racking up 99 points last time out, Wade’s men were beaten to the title by Darlington 1883 and then edged out by Workington in the play-off semi-finals.
But, since he had his arm twisted four years ago to take the helm at the club he supports, Wade feels they have been transformed.
“We’ve developed really well over the last three seasons,” Wade said. “We play good football and the club is going in the right direction, which is all you want really.
“Blyth’s got a bit of pride back in itself and that’s what it’s all about. People are talking about Blyth Spartans now. We need to build on that. It’s going to be a big season.”