How Harrogate Town managed to win a place in the heart of the community

Harrogate Town V Halifax Town. Harrogate's Simon Weaver. (1610153AM7)
Harrogate Town V Halifax Town. Harrogate's Simon Weaver. (1610153AM7)

It may not have been the result the Harrogate Town faithful were hoping for in their FA Cup 4th Qualying Round clash on Saturday, but there’s still plenty to smile about at the CNG these days.

Almost 1,800 fans flocked to Wetherby Road last weekend to watch Halifax Town overcome Simon Weaver’s men 2-0 and reach the first round of the FA Cup proper.

Despite the disappointing result, the clash proved once again the fortunes of Harrogate Town are clearly improving, both on and off the pitch.

Harrogate Town find themselves fourth in the National League North and firmly entrenched in a battle for promotion. The players are flourishing on their new 3G pitch and attendances are up as a result of their impressive new stand.

However, the club have now become a major presence in the community, after launching their Football Foundation C.I.C. The foundation has worked hard to involve itself with local groups, charitable organisations and schools.

This determination for improvement and community involvement has brought very real rewards to everyone involved, with the town as a whole taking a new sense of pride in its football club.

Garry Plant, managing director at Harrogate Town, said that the feel-good atmosphere generated by the huge CNG crowd on Saturday was testament to the positive work being undertaken by everyone involved at the club.

He said: “Harrogate really turned up on Saturday. We expected a big crowd but to get nearly 1,800 people for an FA Cup Qualifier is incredible.

“When I first settled in Harrogate in the 90’s, I did not realise that the town had a football club. But now we’re getting out in the community and talking to lots of people. We’re doing stuff that’s meaningful and making a difference in people’s lives.

“Our support is clearly growing and I think people in Harrogate know that something special is happening here. We need to continue the good work we’ve been doing and do more of it.”

The positive results of the club’s various projects, including its ‘Lifeline through Football’ work, have been plain to see this season. The project works with Harrogate Homeless Project and Lifeline Harrogate to help individuals gain work-based qualifications.

On Saturday, Mr Plant said he was “staggered” to see so many people involved in their stewarding course putting their skills to the test.

The sight of 200 young army apprentices in the stands also pointed to the work taking place with the Army Foundation College; a project the club takes particular pride in.

“We want Harrogate to be proud in what w’ere doing; proud in the stands, proud on the pitch and proud in the community,” Mr Plant said.