From Newcastle to Newcastle – A non-league legends return to the North East

Written by on 19th April 2024

Paul Brayson – a non-league legend – recalls his “whirlwind” move down south and new responsibilities managing a young squad.

For some football managers, they would give their players the night off if a game got postponed. However, after hearing Newcastle Benfield’s game against Redcar Athletic was called off, Paul Brayson began hauling his squad, who know him as “Brassy” over to Northumbria universities sports centre for training.

Now a delivery driver, Brassy started his playing career at Newcastle United, his boyhood club. He made his debut for the Magpies in a League Cup second round tie against Bristol City at St James’ Park.

“I grew up in Elswick, which is five minutes from St James’ Park. Brassy tells me.

“I remember going to the games in the 80s with Gazza (Paul Gascoigne), you could hear when the game was on.

Brassy signed for Newcastle in 1995 when he was just 18 years old. He owes it to former Newcastle scout Brian Clarke who constantly pestered his dad about getting him signed up.

“There were a few other clubs interested but Newcastle offered me a deal which was a two-year schoolboy and a two-year scholarship. 

“So I went and it was probably one of the best times to be a scholar under Kevin Keegan. I was there for four years and it was unbelievable.”

For Brassy, playing football with his mates in Newcastle was all he really knew. So when Kenny Dalglish told him that Reading had placed a bid for him, it sparked a whirlwind of emotions. 

“It happened really quickly, it was the transfer deadline. I got a call the night before saying “Reading wants to sign you.” He recalls.

“I went into training the next day and Kenny said,” Look, Reading have come in with a bid, they’ve bid money for you.” Because it happened so quickly I was humming and harring. 

“Now, I wish I had just taken my time over the decision and just waited till the end of the season. I don’t regret going there, it was just like a whirlwind.  I was 19 at the time, so I had never been away from home, it was a bit of a culture shock and it took me a while to adapt.”

Paul Brayson on the ball while playing for Newcastle Benfield FC. (Credit: Kevin Killing Photography)

Just like that, his time at the club he dreamed of playing for was over. He moved down south, signed for Reading and bought a house. He wouldn’t return to the North East for 10 years, only for occasional trips to see family and friends.

After spells at other North East clubs, Brassy would make the move to Newcastle Benfield in 2013. Much to the delight of Jimmy Rowe, chairman of the club at the time.

I’d go along to Benfield quite a bit when I was playing for Blyth. I’d watch the games and Jimmy would always say to me “when are you signing for us?”. 

“Every time I saw him he would pester me. We played them and won 4-1, I think I scored a hat-trick. After the game he said “you’ve got to come and sign for us next season”. 

“Steve Bowey was the manager at the time and it just came together. Jimmy had been pestering me for years and I ended up signing for them. The rest is history basically.

The news of Brassy’s arrival was welcomed by fans of the club, including the current chairman Craig Bell.

“Brassy was a huge signing for the club, everyone was after him and every season clubs came in for him. Bell says.

“The club managed to get a top, top forward and the fans loved to watch him.

Brassy went on to spend over a decade at Benfield, it is thought that he scored over 400 goals. 

“I remember getting 54 goals in one season, 50, 49. It was over a seven or eight year period where I got 50 goals a season.

Newcastle Benfield manager Paul Brayson with his assistants. (Credit: Kevin Killing Photography)

Now the manager of the club, he looks to impart his wisdom onto the young squad he’s inherited.

We’ve got a very young team, that’s the way you look at the lads. You’ve got a 16-year-old playing, a 17-year-old playing.

“I’m not one who would ever go into a changing room to scream and shout and bollock individuals. You win as a team and lose as a team, that’s the way I see it. 

For some of these younger players, Brassy is an individual they look up to. Benfield committee member David Robson referred to him as a “father figure” to some of the players.

“He knows the pressures that are on some of these lads when they’re trying to perform. Robson says.

“He does take them under his wing, you can see that in his man management and his attitude when talking to the young lads.

As his first full season in charge comes to an end, Benfield find themselves in the semi-final of the Northumberland Senior cup. This is the last chance at silverware for Benfield this season.

“Any manager that’s involved in the game wants to win things. It’s a massive thing we’re looking at. We’ve got Blyth who are a very good team. 

“We just hope everyone’s fit and hopefully we can get a result.

A corner flag at the MKM Stadium. (Credit: Liam Brusby)

Brassy’s son, Joe, has been making a name for himself in the Newcastle United youth setup. At just 16, he has made appearances for the Magpies under-21 squad.  Brassy has made sure that his son knows about the reality of football thanks to a piece of advice given to him during his time in the academy.

“I said to him, take every minute as it comes because it goes really quick. He’s been at the club over a year but it only feels like it was two minutes ago.”

Brassy’s playing career may be coming to a close, but his experience and knowledge of the game has started the careers of many others. Especially those close to him.

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