Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Past Can Spur on Spartans to Glory; Gateshead Are Firm Favourites to See off Local Rivals Blyth Spartans in Today's FA Cup First-Round Tie. but Blyth Boss Steve Cuggy Sees Things a Little Differently, He Tells Steve Brown

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Past Can Spur on Spartans to Glory; Gateshead Are Firm Favourites to See off Local Rivals Blyth Spartans in Today's FA Cup First-Round Tie. but Blyth Boss Steve Cuggy Sees Things a Little Differently, He Tells Steve Brown

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Brown

THE past weighs heavily on Blyth Spartans, but it is not always a bad thing.

The past, Steve Cuggy believes, shows what is possible in the future.

The Croft Park club entertains timeserved rivals Gateshead in the first round of the FA Cup this afternoon.

Bottom of Blue Square Bet North play sixth from the league above, and most have written off Blyth's chances against their full-time opponents.

Yet Spartans boss Cuggy insists a home victory would not be the biggest surprise in the club's rich heritage, and the record books back his claim.

In 1978 Blyth beat Chesterfield and Stoke City to reach the FA Cup fifth round, where they were eventually beaten by Wrexham in a replay watched by more than 42,000 at St James' Park.

And three years ago, after victories over Shrewsbury Town and AFC Bournemouth, the club exited the third round at the hands of Blackburn Rovers.

So hope from history then. Lessons learned too.

In February, the Tynesiders won an FA Trophy quarter-final at Croft Park without fully breaking sweat until Mick Tait's side emerged from their shell and cranked up the pressure in the latter stages.

Cuggy witnessed that game as a spectator and, as a Blyth lad and former Spartans striker, felt the fans' pain.

As such, his Blyth - having succeeded Tait in the summer - must, he says, show Ian Bogie's men just the requisite level of respect come 3pm, if they are to restore some pride.

More than that, with the pressure off them for a change, Cuggy fearlessly believes victory is far from beyond his team. Just think Stoke, Shrewsbury, Bournemouth ... "The lads are raring to go, if they're not there's something wrong because this is what we're here for, big games like this," Blyth boss Cuggy said.

"But we won't enjoy it unless we get a result, that's for sure.

"Everyone knows the FA Cup is a special competition for Blyth, which is an added pressure because it doesn't matter who you're playing against, you're expected to get a result.

"But on the other hand some of the pressure's off us. We've haven't had the results we wanted in the league, and in the earlier rounds of the cup, against Bedlington Terriers and Whitby Town especially, we were the ones expected to win. So I know the position Gateshead are in, it's a difficult one for them, especially the longer the game goes on, if we're still in it.

"That's what we have to strive for, and then get the crowd really pushing for us. That'll give us a big, big lift.

"We know we're underdogs but this wouldn't be the greatest shock in Blyth's history by a long stretch in the game, so we don't think we're out of it by any stretch of the imagination.

"We will be if we don't turn up on the day, but if everybody puts a shift in we've got a chance. …

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