Orginally published in the Techflow Marine Senior Cup Final programme.
Ask any Morpeth Town fan about Ken Beattie and they will only have positives to say. In matter of fact, ask any Northern League fan about Mr Beattie and you will be informed of why he is one of the most prevalent figures in the north east football scene.
He can be described as Mr Morpeth, always dressed to impress and distinguished with his trim black blazer and amber and black tie – the two colours he has bled for over 40 years as a player, manager, committee member and now chairman of his beloved Morpeth Town Football Club.
The atmosphere Ken and his committee have created around the club can be reported as a family-friendly one. You are greeted by the same volunteers at every home game and can always enjoy a natter in the club house after the contest with fans from both sides; something you’d never experience higher up the footballing pyramid.
Ken has been a long-term financial backer of his hometown club for many years through his family-owned company, the Techflow Group, whom provide a range of specialist products to the offshore oil, gas and marine industries. He took the helm at the business in 2006 and has since combined his professional career with developing the south east Northumberland side into one of the now biggest teams within the county.
When asked about how he first got involved with the Highwaymen he laughed and joked: “Where do I start?” He continued: “I was a player in the 70s and 80s and played about 14 seasons altogether – so it’s been a long time. Then in 1992 I was roped into the committee and became chairman that same year.”
As Ken recollected on his past playing days, he also mentioned Craik Park, named after W. and R. Craik who had been the club’s secretaries between 1920 and 1985. He oversaw the move from their previous premises at Storey Park to their current location, which was initially built as the home for Morpeth Harriers & Athletics Club. In 1994 the football club built a 100-seat stand, new clubhouses and erected floodlights which allowed for evening fixtures.
Little did Ken know that in 2019 their new home would be developed to a FA ‘Category C’ ground grade – now suitable for step 3 of the National League System – which is where they look to be heading as they currently sit top of the Evo-Stik Division One East table by 10 points with a game in hand.
“There was no scope to develop the ground behind the Sun Inn (Storey Park) and the council suggested a move,” he explained. “We’ve been on a rollercoaster since then, winning the Northern League [Division Two] and the FA Vase – we now get 500-600 people average each game which is great.”
“We had a visit from the FA and we passed [ground grading] with flying colours, but we have to put things in place like a retractable tunnel, turnstiles and extra seating so anyone coming to the ground will see a big difference.”
It is apparent that the club is going through a big change and Ken has no plans to slow down with aspirations of National League football within the next few years. An achievement which would be a great contrast to the club who were rock bottom of the Northern League Division Two, unable to even pay the player’s expenses and on the brink of folding in 2011.
Ken has always been vocal about the travel cost implications of promotion but spoke confidently of the club’s long-term aim: “We are aiming for National League North, it’s a good level and I think we can compete quite comfortably. Yes, to go to the National League would be one hell of a big financial jump – but you’ve got to get it right off the field first.”
But as the Highwaymen set their sights on League promotion, they find themselves in a position to bring the Senior Cup back to Morpeth for the first time since 2007; a day in which they edged Blyth Spartans 3-2 at St James’ Park.
And along with his backing of Morpeth Town, it just so happens that Ken’s company is also the main sponsor of today’s historic 135-year-old competition which is competed between the top teams affiliated to Northumberland Football Association.
It’s something that Ken is very proud of and just speaking to him it is obvious that the sponsorship is more of a ‘giving back’ exercise to the county rather that a ‘profit-making’ one for his business.
“The Senior Cup has a superb tradition which needs to be endorsed so that is why I wanted to help out,” said Beattie. “Being against North Shields we prefer it as it gives a bit more of a derby atmosphere. It’s the final we would have wanted, and I think they will give us a hard time – it’s two good sides so I think it will be a great occasion and one I’m looking forward to.”
Aside from the result today It is fair to say that Ken Beattie’s humbled approach has created something really special at Morpeth Town. It’s a club which signifies what non-league is all about; a community feeling with a great connection between the players and fans along with a real ‘rags to riches’ story behind it.
And long may that notion continue with the success the team is currently enjoying.