Paul Foster and Paul Bryson will step down from their positions as joint managers at the end of the 23/24 season. 

The Hoops are currently flying high in their inaugural season in Northern League Division One and cemented a play-off position on Monday following their 2-0 victory over Redcar Athletic. Bryson and Foster took over from Paul Beat in the summer of 2022 and started life with a 10 game unbeaten run in Northern League Division Two. That fantastic start gave Birtley a brilliant platform that allowed the club to finish in 5th position and qualify for the play-offs.

A semi-final win over Horden CW setup a historic play-off final at Billingham Town. A late equaliser from Aidan Rutledge took The Hoops to a penalty shoot-out and Birtley went on to win 5-4 following Callum Turnbull’s winning penalty which secured promotion to Northern League Division One for the first time in the club’s history. 

The Hoops have continued their progression in spectacular style this season. An opening day 4-1 victory at Redcar Athletic was the start of a five-match winning streak that took Birtley to the top of the league. The Hoops also recorded memorable wins against Guisborough Town, Whitley Bay and West Auckland as they cemented their place in the top five.  Two goals from James Proctor on Monday night secured a 2-0 victory over Redcar Athletic which ensured another play-off position for Birtley. The Hoops await confirmation of their semi-final opponents but both Bryson and Foster have decided to call time on their illustrious careers. 

Paul Foster takes a moment to reflect following Birtley’s promotion last season.

Paul Foster:Well they say that all good things must come to an end and due to a change in work circumstances that has come about a little bit quicker than anticipated, I have decided to step away from management after the play-offs. If I am unable to give the 100% commitment that this club deserves then I feel its best to move away and allow the club plenty of time to appoint a new management team.”

“It’s important to look at where the club is now compared to when it was reformed in 1993. Everyone knows this is my hometown club, born and bred in Birtley, and proud of the fact. When Paul Beat asked me to help him back in 2020 it was just too much to turn down. Then to become manager two seasons ago was the next step. This would always be my last job in football and what a way to finish by not only getting us promoted in the first year but to take it to the next level this season is unbelievable.”

“The club was on its knees 6-7 years ago and due to the hard work of the current regime, who deserve every bit of praise they receive, they got things right off the field which allowed us to be competitive on the field. I want to thank them all personally as everyone knows it was my late Dad’s dream to see his hometown club get to play in the Northern League. When David Smith (Smiggs) and I took over first time around 2000, his words were “Just get us in that Northern League and I will be happy”. He didn’t get to see it but his dream was fulfilled and the club are where they deserved to be. My Dad, John Heslington and Richie Barrett took over a club in 30k of debt and kept it alive, the rest, as they say, is history. That is down to the committee and the volunteers for keeping the club alive. Those times have allowed us a platform to achieve what we have done in the last two years and for that I will be eternally grateful. You just need to look at the club now, we have over 30 junior sides and a successful ladies side. The club is flourishing and I leave knowing it is in great hands.”

The most important thing is putting a team on the park and we have had players over the last two years who have given everything for this club. With blood, sweat and tears in abundance to get us where we are at present. Every single one of them have played their part whether they are still with us or have moved on. They have been a privilege to be around and what we haven’t had in resources compared to other teams, we have more than made up for in togetherness. We have stuck together when the going gets tough. We have lads who have been offered extra money and turned it down. They understand what this club is about and for that I can’t thank you all enough.”

“Behind every good team you have to have good individuals and when Paul Beat decided to step away both myself and Brysa put in for the job . When we had a chat it was a no brainer to do it together and what a great decision that has been. We have worked hand in hand to bring success and his experience of managing at a professional level has been invaluable. One of the best phone calls I made early doors was getting Robin Falcus involved who was previously in charge of Whickham along with Reece Chapman and John Mordey. We have five winning mentalities in the dugout which has rubbed off on the lads and they have run through brick walls over the last two years so a massive thanks to them.”

“Lastly to the supporters, it’s been great seeing old and new faces at Birtley to watch the games and you have been pivotal in taking the club forward by backing us both on the gate and in most cases at the bar!! Your unwavering support has been crucial and I ask you to continue to follow the team in your numbers both home and away as I’m sure you will. The local sponsors and individuals that support the football club are vital and your support means more than you would ever know so please continue to help the club no matter how big or small.”

“As always mine is a John Smiths and I’ll see you at the games.”

“There you go ‘MR BIRTLEY TOWN’, dream fulfilled, RIP Dad. See you at the far post, Cheers, Foss!”

Paul Bryson celebrates our promotion to Northern League Division One

Paul Bryson: “I have been involved in Saturday football for 42 years. It’s a good old stint and I am not getting any younger. I am ready to take my foot off the gas a little bit alongside going part-time work. Everyone knows that managing a football team is a really big commitment. At the start of the season I had made my decision but there has been times where I have thought I might stay on, just one more year and that was up until three of four weeks ago. I feel that the the time is right. I have absolutely loved the last two years, I couldn’t be leaving football on a higher note. This season and the last two years have arguably been the best two years I have had in football. 

“Managing is different to playing. I loved my playing days but in terms of managing, these last two years have been fantastic. The memories that we have created from that the last two seasons will live with me forever. I can’t thank the club enough for giving me this opportunity to work with Foss, Reece, Robin and John. All fantastic lads. It’s a tough decision but there comes a time when we all have to say our goodbyes. I feel this is the right time to pass this onto someone else. This time feels right. It is a really tough decision. It’s a club that is very close to my heart. I love all of the people, the volunteers are amazing. It’s everything about the club, it’s absolutely superb. It’s a tough decision but the decision is right.”

The Hoops are going up! (Credit: Scott Llewellyn | @SL_SportsPhotos)

Chairman Paul Beat: “It’s hard to know where to begin when talking about the two Paul’s. Both personally, and professionally, we all absolutely love who they are and I think that goes both ways and shows around the whole club. They’ve built a squad that epitomises who we are and the town we represent. When we appointed the lads, we were supremely confident that they would move our wonderful club forward, as well as let all of the rest of us concentrate on the off field work without worry. They’ve delivered that in spades, along with the support of Robin, Reece and John and the players in the group. That’s not forgetting the longer term history they both have with Birtley Town. I also think it’s a day to take stock outside of the club for other clubs that have been fortunate to have both them on their pitch, or in their dugout.”

“We have overachieved this year again, no matter what happens in the playoffs, but I know that they’ll not want to go out with anything other than being the very best we can be. I know they’ll not be strangers, and keep any eye out for some announcements soon on celebrations coming up to mark the fantastic careers of both men. “

“In terms of what we do now moving forward, we’re extremely confident that we continue to build the foundations of a club with long term goals, and we will discuss options following the playoffs. Until then, we won’t be making any further comments about the plans moving forward, but will update all supporters, club members as soon as we can.”

“Let’s get behind the management team and players to the best of our ability next week, and see where we go from there. Up the Hoops! 💚🤍”

The club would like to thank Paul Foster and Paul Bryson for their amazing achievements over the past two seasons. The play-off final win at Billingham will live long in the memory for everyone associated with the club. During their tenure, the club have set a new attendance record on three different occasions, passing 500 spectators in the derby day victory over Chester-le-Street Town in January 2023. Bryson and Foster have left the club in a fantastic position with a squad that is competing at the top end of Northern League Division One. Reaching the play-offs in our first season in Northern League Division One is an outstanding achievement and beyond the imaginations of everyone at the club when they started their reign in June 2022. Foss and Brysa have cemented their places as Birtley legends and we look forward to seeing them at the club, having a drink and enjoying their retirement. 

Everyone at the club is now fully focused on our upcoming play-offs. The club will make no further comment about the managerial position until the 23/24 season has concluded.