Mark Carruther's Non-League verdict: Remembering much-admired Michael Taylor and North Shields' FA Vase hopes
But every now and then, something happens that unites the vast majority as intense rivalries are cast aside.
There was a united front on display last week after the sad passing of a much-admired figure across the region.
Michael Taylor, a stalwart of the non-league scene for so long, passed away at the age of 58 and former clubs, team-mates and friends were quick to pay tribute via their personal and professional social media outlets.
South Shields - where Taylor played and managed during some rockier times for the Mariners - led the way, described their former striker as “a huge character” and “a vital figure”.
Talk of “a vital contribution” during his time with the Mariners was not misplaced.
That summed him up to perfection and it would not be beyond the realms of possibility to suggest that without Taylor’s hard work and dedication in preserving their Northern League status, there would be none of the success and ambition that followed in recent years.
The great and the good of the North East followed in their footsteps with the likes of Durham City, Bishop Auckland and Chester-le-Street Town all paying their own respects following the desperately sad news.
Patterns emerged with words and phrases such as “a genuine legend”, “one of a kind” and “a gem of a guy” commonplace as the tributes continued to flow throughout the week.
The excellent Blyth Spirit blog described him as “a true Northern League legend - but the tributes spoke went beyond his impact in football, with one South Shields supporter hailing Taylor as “a lovely guy”.
More tributes followed over the last week when many of the clubs Taylor represented returned to action and there will be no doubt emotions will run high across the region.
It takes a very special person to unite so many in a divisive environment - but Micky has done and the impact he leaves behind will not be allowed to lessen with the passing of time.
He will never be forgotten and my thoughts are with his friends, family and all of those whose lives he touched throughout his career.
North East non-league football is a poorer place for his absence.
It was a pleasure to be at North Shields’ 2-0 home win against Rugby Town as the Robins moved to within 180 minutes of a place at Wembley.
The FA Vase, as we all know, has been a regular source of success for North East clubs over the last 14 years and the Robins are one of a number of clubs that have experienced Wembley glory.
I was at the Home of Football back in 2015 when a North Shields side managed by Graham Fenton produced a late fightback to bring the Vase back to the North East.
For large parts of their final against Glossop North End, it looked as if Fenton’s men would experience heartache but a header from the ever-prolific Gareth Bainbridge took the game into extra-time.
There seemed only one winner from that point onwards and it took a fine finish from Adam Forster to break North End hearts and allow the Robins to celebrate a hard-earned win.
The biggest compliment I can pay the Robins Class of 22 is that they share many of the characteristics of Fenton’s side.
Under the expert guidance of Marc Nash and Anthony Woodhouse, North Shields have made their way to the last eight of the competition by showing control, discipline and a style of attacking play that opponents struggle to contain.
Their squad has a lovely blend of experienced, knowledgable and battle-hardened players and exciting youngsters that are passing every challenge that is thrown their way.
They have worked diligently to add the right characters to their squad to be able to cope with the increasingly hectic schedule coming their way as they fight for success on three separate fronts.
The win against Rugby was achieved in awful conditions, as wind battered the Daren Persson Stadium, making any sort of attractive play almost impossible.
But save for a first-half penalty miss by their visitors, Nash’s side always looked the more likely of the two sides to progress as the took control of the contest.
They possess a defence that look capable of managing the many difficult in-game situations that the latter stages of the competition presents and a midfield that blends power and creativity so well.
Just as any good FA Vase winner, North Shields possess a prolific striker in Dan Wilson and he will be key to their chances of becoming on the second Northern League club to win the competition more than once.
Their reward for the win against Rugby was an away day at Southern Combination League Premier Division leaders Littlehampton Town.
The over 700-mile round-trip will offer a real test of the Robins Vase credentials and that is without even considering the logistical challenges that lie in wait for everyone at the club.
But they will travel in confidence that they can extend their run in the competition and keep alive their hopes of completing a Vase, Northern League and Northumberland Senior Cup treble.
North Shields’ FA Vase quarter-final clash against Littlehampton will take place on Saturday, 12 March 2022 – kick-off is at 3pm.