"I was working at the pit, when Newcastle signed me."
Alan Shoulder, a name from the 70s with Blyth Spartans and the great FA Cup run. Alan was born on 4th February 1953 in Bishop Auckland, at the age of 18 he started work as a miner. His football career began with Leeholme Juniors, and it wasn't long before he was getting the attention from clubs in the Northern League.
He signed for Bishop Auckland in the 72/73 season as a 19-year-old. At 5ft5 you wouldn't think Alan would be a forward, but he was scoring goals for fun, he was top scorer for 3 seasons on the bounce and was a regular in the Bishop Auckland side.
After 5 seasons at Bishop Auckland he moved to Blyth Spartans for a fee of £200 after a long dispute with the club. He got off to a great start at Blyth scoring some great goals and been part of the famous 77/78 cup squad that got to the 5th round of the FA Cup. Alan wanted to play football nearer to home and eventually he put in a transfer request. Newcastle United legend Jackie Millburn was friends with Blyth chairman Jim Tourney. Jackie had spoken to Jim and Brian Slane, the Blyth manager, about Alan and what he was like as a person. Newcastle sent the scouts to both ties of a York City cup match to see for themselves.
They spoke to Alan straight after the first match and invited him to St James' Park the following Monday saying they were interested in signing him. After the replay in which Alan scored twice during a 5-3 defeat, the York City manager Charlie Wright approached Brian Slane and said, "Name your price for Alan Shoulder". Brain replied with, "See that man over there it's Newcastle manager Bill McGarry, they have agreed to sign Alan."
The meeting went ahead on the Monday, and he signed the following day for £20,000 and an extra £5,000 after so many appearances. He met his teammates on the Wednesday and his debut on the Saturday. Alan was getting £14 a week at Blyth and he was now on £180 a week, with the chance to earn an extra £300 in bonuses.
Alan was now a Newcastle player in Division Two. He was thrown straight in at the deep end and made his debut in December 1978 against Stoke in a 2:0 victory. His first goal for
Newcastle came the following weekend at Fulham in a 3-1 victory.
Alan formed a brilliant partnership with another outstanding forward, Peter Withe, who Newcastle had signed at the start of the season for £200,000. Between December and the season ending Alan hit the net 11 times, with Peter notching 16. The goals couldn't get Newcastle promotion and finished in a disappointing 9th place.
The following season Alan hit 21 and Peter got 11. Alan netting a penalty in the New Year's Day match against Sunderland in the 3-1 victory. In the summer of 1980 Peter Withe was sold to Aston Villa and sadly Alan lost that fine form of goals with his partner gone. Alan was a crowd favourite due to giving it all on the pitch, he made 117 appearances in the black and white shirt, finding the goal 38 times.
He was allowed to leave in the summer of 1982 and Carlisle United with Bob Stokoe at the helm snapped him up. Alan had a great time at Carlisle during his first season, he played 46 games scoring 21 goals. Alan was player of the season in 82/83. Carlisle's New Year Day match was away to Newcastle United, Alan received a fantastic reception from both the home and away supporters. He scored the opening goal in a well fought 2-2 draw.
Alan played 112 times for Carlisle scoring 32 times, then in 84/85 season he moved to Hartlepool United.
Alan played 76 times for Hartlepool scoring 26 goals, and was top scorer in 85/86 season. He played his last professional match in the Football League on 16th September 1987 in Hartlepool's 2-1 home victory against Cambridge United. An eye injury saw Alan retire in December 1988, but he continued to play for Ferryhill Athletic.
Alan moved into management and coaching, Gretna and then a coach at Newcastle Blue Star, he also managed Crook Town, Bishop Auckland, Willington and West Auckland Town. He also managed Blyth Spartans for a short while in 1998. Alan will always be remembered by the older generation as a player who never backed out of a tackle, he was like a terrier on the pitch he gave his all and that's what supporters love to see. I was one of the lucky ones to have seen him play. Thank you, Mr Shoulder.