IT was back to reality for Blyth Spartans’ devastated players yesterday following their narrow FA Cup defeat to Blackburn Rovers, as they faced up to the prospect of a Blue Square North relegation battle.
Despite conceding the vast majority of possession to their top-flight opposition Blyth, who are second from bottom in the league, were close to forcing the tie into a replay.
Having enjoyed their time in the limelight, Spartans must now focus on the need to get out of the drop zone in the Blue Square North having failed to win a league game at Croft Park since the start of September.
But for defender Richard Pell, who has been one of the stars of Blyth’s run to the third round of the FA Cup, the real work began at 8.15am yesterday.
He said: “It is back to reality now. I had the day off on Monday, not out of choice, the agency I am working for didn’t call me in, but they wanted me on Tuesday starting at 8.15am. I am a qualified physio, still looking for a full-time post. I’m working at a school which specialises in helping kids with autism, the Thomas Bewick School in West Denton.
“I have been doing that through an agency. Sometimes they want me, sometimes they don’t need me at all. Of course everyone would love to be playing full-time.”
Despite the immense disappointment which followed the defeat by Sam Allardyce’s side on Monday night, Blyth’s players should be proud of what they have achieved this season. The victories over Shrewsbury Town and Bournemouth were special moments and should ensure the class of 2009 has secured its place in the club’s history alongside the team which reached the fifth round of the competition in 1978. For Pell, a former England youth international who began his career at Nottingham Forest, the memories from the last few months will never fade.
“I think when everything settles down everyone will be able to look back on what we have done,” he said. “We didn’t know what type of team Sam Allardyce was going to put out.
“To be honest a lot of the names I had never heard of.
“It was fantastic, though, because you know that you are going to have to up your game.
“The pace is so much quicker than we are used to. I loved it and loved testing myself against these players. We were not found wanting at all.”
“It was like schoolboy football at the end. I was so tired and the ball was flying about all over the place. I loved it though. It was agonising to miss the chances, that is what turns a game, but we have had enough good fortune already to get this far.”