Prolific Pitman deserving of status as a Whitby Town club legend

The testimonial. An honour bestowed on a player for ten years worth of unbroken service at a football club, and an honour that is becoming ever rarer in the modern game.

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 11:14 am
Updated Friday, 23rd April 2021, 11:48 am
CLUB LEGEND: Paul Pitman who scored Whitby’s late winner fires in a shot past the Banstead defence

You see, nowadays with the way that football is, unbroken service and loyalty are things that you very rarely see.

Huge transfer fees tempt clubs to sell. Huge wage increases tempt players to leave.

The one-club man is a thing of the past.

Non-league football is very similar. Longevity of players has started to dwindle.

Whitby Town haven’t hosted a testimonial since 1999 – that day it was the club’s record goalscorer Paul ‘Yacker’ Pitman who was to be honoured.

Strictly speaking, the prolific goalscorer’s testimonial should have come a year earlier, having signed from North Shields in 1988.

Better late than never one might say. Due to work commitments – ‘Yacker’ was laying cables and working on the Jubilee Line at the time – there was a delay to the celebrations.

From that point of signing, Pitman would score a record number of goals for the club, as well as smashing the appearance record, with only David Campbell managing to get anywhere near in recent years, closing the gap to just nine.

Trophy-wise it was a fruitful spell for both Whitby and Pitman too – his goals helped the club to several honours, including two Northern League titles, a Northern Premier League Division One title and most notably, the FA Vase in 1997 – over the spell, he rightly became a Whitby Town legend.

‘Yacker’s’ finest goalscoring season came in 1995/96, when he netted 60 goals for the Blues, before going on in the next season to score the all-important last-minute goal against Banstead at the Turnbull Ground to send Whitby to Wembley in the FA Vase – a goal that wouldn’t have happened had the club accepted a £10,000 bid for the marksman in the previous years.

Such was his goalscoring prowess, he would manage 29 hat-tricks over his time at the club, and be the club’s top goalscorer on seven occasions.

He also played a key part in the FA Cup epic with Hull City in 1996, netting a hat-trick in the 8-4 defeat at Boothferry Park.

The hat-trick goal that night would be his 300th for the club.

It was Eddie Gray, Pitman’s former manager at the Turnbull, who played a part in organising the match, arranging for David O’Leary’s side to come to his former club as part of the celebrations.

The Peacocks’ recent signing from Sunderland, Michael Bridges, started his first Leeds United match, while the likes of Alf-Inge Haaland, Alan Maybury and Eirik Bakke would turn out alongside youth prospects such as Paul Robinson and Mark Jackson.

Other star names turning out for the Whites included Bruno Riberio and Martin Hiden.

The Seasiders, on the other hand, recalled a number of familiar names from the club’s recent trophy-laden seasons, including the likes of Paul Welham, David Campbell and Andy Toman.

Pitman was given a rapturous ovation by almost 1,500 supporters when he stepped out onto the Turnbull Ground pitch, with Leeds United having brought a mix and youth and big names to turn out in the testimonial.

At times, Leeds showed some touches of genius and thrilled the crowd with some scintillating moves and exhibition football.

But on ten minutes, it was Whitby who fired the first warning to their visitors. Graham Robinson burst down the right and fired an angled shot, though Paul Robinson was equal to it.

United also had their own spells of dominance but failed to worry Campbell too much.

The first real chance of the evening fell to Pitman, but he sent the ball over the bar when well-placed midway through the opening period.

It was United’s new boy Michael Bridges that would open the scoring on the evening, 37 minutes in.

Maybury’s cross caused problems for Whitby, with Bridges making sure he was first to it to head home.

Wes Boyle was linking up well with Stephen McPhail for the visitors and had a shot well saved just before United increased their lead on the stroke of half-time.

Haaland’s defence-splitting pass found its way to Matthew Jones, whose low effort from 12 yards left Campbell with no chance.

Whitby almost conjured up an instant reply but keeper Robinson made a point blank save from Toman’s header.

The Premiership side took over in the second half, even after some of the big names were replaced by youngsters.

Substitute Bakke had a glorious chance to put Leeds three goals in front on 57 minutes, but after Bridges carved the defence open, Bakke missed an open goal.

Pitman was cheered every time he got a sniff of an opening, but finally got a chance to put his name on the scoresheet when the referee awarded a generous penalty towards the end of the match.

The result was never in doubt, as Pitman wrong-footed the keeper and slammed in a great spot-kick.

Reflecting on his testimonial in a recent Blues podcast, Pitman said: “When I picked the team, I was trying to stay on the fence and keep everyone happy, but there were players like Paul Welham that I wanted to get involved even though they were not playing as much at that point.

“It was nice to go out there, knowing you’re playing against Leeds United, and everyone is there for you.

“It was a great feeling. I really appreciate the club giving me the testimonial.”

That would prove to be Pitman’s last season with the club, with a further eight games and a goal, taking his total for the club to 378 goals in 484 appearances, over the course of 11 years.

From there, Pitman would play for just another two seasons, turning out for Dunston Federation under former Seasiders manager Bob Scaife, before finishing up at Easington Colliery in the 2000/2001 season.