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The Independent Online
Blyth Spartans have seen it all before in the FA Cup, most notably in 1978 when they were a minute away from becoming the first non-League team to reach the quarter-finals only for Wrexham to equalise from a twice- retaken corner. The replay drew 41,000 to St James' Park, borrowed for the night, but the Third Division side won 2-1.

The run was the making of several players, among them Alan Shoulder, a 25-year-old miner from Leasingthorne, the Durham village best known as the home of Arthur Stephenson's racing stable. League scouts began tracking the 5ft 5in forward and the following season, after scoring twice in a 5-3 first-round defeat against York, Newcastle offered him a contract.

"It was a bit of a gamble, really," Shoulder said. "I was a deputy by then and on good money. But I took the chance. Fortunately, the pit manager was a Newcastle fan because I should have worked three months' notice."

The gamble paid off, launching a career that brought more than 100 goals for Newcastle, Carlisle and Hartlepool before a head injury forced him to quit in 1988.

Despite the handicap of double vision, the legacy of the injury, Shoulder today runs a poultry farm from his nine-acre smallholding, manages Crook Town in the Northern League and turns out each week for the Masons Arms over-40s team at Spennymoor, for whom he has scored 18 goals in eight games this season.

Married since 1977 to his childhood sweetheart, Marie, a schoolteacher, he still lives in Leasingthorne. His daughter, Louise, at 15 the oldest of three sisters, wants to be a football physio.

Jon Culley