Oldest super fan, 86, on Harrogate Town's big Wembley clash

In normal times this weekend's historic play-off final at Wembley Stadium would be a dream time for Harrogate Town's biggest 'super fan.'

Thursday, 30th July 2020, 12:33 pm
This weekend's play-off final at Wembley Stadium is a dream come true for Harrogate Town's biggest 'super fan' 86-year-old John Walker.

Despite advancing age and fading health, 86-year-old John Walker says he would have been heading down to London to support Harrogate Town in the biggest game in their history.

As someone who first went to see Harrogate play football in 1940, John's renown is such that ITV are sending a film crew to interview him tomorrow, Friday at CNG Stadium.

But what matters to John, whose first Town match was 70 years ago as a pupil at New Park Primary School in Harrogate, is that his beloved team beats Notts County on Sunday and achieving Football League status for the first time since the club was founded in 1914.

In fact, it's been this amazing man's most cherished ambition since he first went to a Harrogate Town match in the early years of the Second World War.

Talking to the Harrogate Advertiser, John said: "I'm really pleased by how this season has gone.

"I started going down to watch Harrogate Town with my dad when I was six.

"Thye're treading strange ground. They've never got this far before.

"I think this is the biggest game in their history."

John may be too old now for even the assisted living he had been enjoying in Ripon but for many years he was a hands-on helper at Harrogate Town.

He still remembers working in the 1950s with then club secretary Charlie Hartley, helping round the ground.

The rise from the West Yorkshire League to the brink of the Football League is one which has thrilled John, who is currently staying with his daughter and son-in-law in Knaresborough.

John said: "I've only seen them sporadically at home matches this season and haven't managed to get to any away games.

"But, from what I've seen, they're a good team. My favourite team member is Jack Emmett, the number eight. He's a great player.

"The centre half Connor Hall is great, too, and the keeper James Belshaw.

"But they're all good, really."

As a keen observer of the national game, John says Nott County's familiarity with a large grass pitch compared to Town's more intimate artificial 3G pitch may be a factor, though is confident Harrogate's classy brand of football will triumph.

Like all Harrogate Town fans, he will be watching the match against the promotion rivals whose sponsors include Cadbury and Puma, on TV while his heroes on the pitch play in a virtually empty Wembley Stadium.

John said: "Town looked very good against Boreham Wood in the semi-finals of the play-offs.

"Even if fans were allowed at Wembley, it would be a bit of a struggle for me."

But, as one of the oldest continuous loyal football supporters in Britain, John is determined to see the club that is his life in person next season whether they defeat the former FA Cup winners or not.

John said: "I will be watching on BT Sport this Sunday wishing them the best.

"I'm hoping my son-in-law, who is a Bolton Wanderers fan, will go with me to home matches next season at CNG Stadium.

"Who knows, Harrogate might end up playing Bolton Wanderers."

And he's going to tell ITV that.

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