“We’re just a town full of tea shops,” came the proud chant from Harrogate Town supporters.
Outnumbered by more than 3,000 Hartlepool United fans, Town’s crowd of 187 certainly made themselves heard from the away stands on Tuesday.
More than 60 of those supporters had travelled up from Harrogate on an away coach, which was laid on by the Harrogate Town Supporters Club.
Aboard this bus, there was a mixture of excitement, anticipation, and above all things - camaraderie. What is it that motivates people to travel hundreds of miles to support their football team? - Looking around the coach, it was easy to see the appeal.
Clearly, there is getting to see your team play, but it’s more than that. For the band of supporters travelling to Hartlepool, it was also a chance to catch up with like-minded people - who they call their football family.
And then there’s the sense of being part of something. Fans of all ages and backgrounds were on that coach, but the chants, singing and chatter brought everyone together. Their love of Harrogate Town was a firm common ground.
Brian Summerson takes his nine-year-old son Ben to as many Harrogate Town games as he can. He chooses the away coach for its family feel. Only 10 minutes or so into the journey, Ben asks if we’re nearly there yet - he couldn’t wait to see his favourite players walking out onto the pitch.
Brian said: “I love taking Ben to games. It’s lovely to be able to share the experience and celebrate together.”
And everyone seemed to have their different roles on the trip. As the coordinator for the Harrogate Town Supporters Club’s away travel, Jordan Ford was primarily rushing around chatting to fans on the coach, and making sure that everything was running smoothly.
But it soon became clear that he has another string to his bow as far as these trips are concerned. Enquiring as to what the most popular songs and chants are for the away coaches, one fan said: “Ask Jordan, he’s the top of the pops for the Harrogate Town supporters. He’ll tell you them all, he’s king of the songs.”
And his compèring wasn’t bad, either. “Welcome aboard the 17.15 Harrogate Town express,” Jordan announced as we set off. There was some wide-eyed amazement when fans arrived at Hartlepool’s stadium.
Not only was this the first away game of the season, it represented a big moment in Harrogate Town’s journey into the National League. Eyeing up the grounds, Dave Hope said: “This is a whole new venture, we’ve never played at places like this before.”
Les Pennington, who has been a Harrogate Town supporter for 30 years, was staggered by the number of people attending the match.
He said: “Just look at that, seeing a queue like this for tickets is beyond my comprehension really. It’s fantastic to see so many Harrogate Town fans here showing their support, and when you see the size of the crowds for the teams we’re playing, you just realise that this is a big step up, it’s a massive change for the club.”
For Peter Godden, Town time is also family time - supporting the club is something that the Goddens and their friends all do together. He said: “It’s great to be here, it’s a fantastic achievement for Town to be here having their first away game of the National League. It’s a real pleasure to see so many people turning out to support Town.”
Asking a couple of fans for advice about where to sit for the best atmosphere, they said it didn’t really matter - “don’t worry, wherever you sit, you’ll hear us. It’s always an amazing atmosphere.”
Soon enough, the chants started up. We All Love Town, and Yellow Black Army were firm favourites, as was ‘Town All Over’ - a rework of The Searchers’ Glad All Over. So loud were their joyous chants echoing around the stadium, that fans soon started shouting, “is this a library?” - they simply couldn’t hear Hartlepool.
When Hartlepool scored their first goal, and their celebratory music played, Town fans still chanted We All Love Town - louder than when the team scored later in the game.
The cheers were deafening when Callum Howe scored Town’s 90th minute equaliser, bringing the score up to 2-2. Children jumped up and down, and dozens of fans ran down to the front row of seats to get closer to their team and share the moment together.
Long-time Harrogate Town fan Bernard Higgins said: “It was a well-fought point, well-deserved. The atmosphere was great. The more success the team has, the more the club will grow. We have a fantastic group of supporters - everyone knows each other and we’re all pally. We always stick together.”
On the coach back, there were chants and cheers for the supporters, as well as the players - for 13-year-old “Chief” Brody, who makes video blogs about Harrogate Town, and for 84-year-old Johnny Walker who is known among the supporters club as Johnny the legend. He’s been a Town fan for more than 50 years.
As the singing and cheering continued, one supporter said, “It definitely helps the team having this kind of support.”
Upcoming away fixtures
The Harrogate Town Supporters Club is still taking bookings for its away game coaches.
Harrogate Town’s upcoming away fixtures: Harrogate Town v Bromley FC, August 11; Harrogate Town v Aldershot Town, August 18; Harrogate Town v AFC Fylde, August 27; Harrogate Town v Gateshead FC, September 4; Harrogate Town v Boreham Wood, September 29; Harrogate Town v Ebbsfleet United, October 6; Harrogate Town v Dagenham and Redbridge, October 27; Harrogate Town v Maidenhead United, November 17.
Contact Jordan Ford, away travel coordinator for the supporters club, to book your place on a coach. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 07989 969575. The Harrogate Town Supporters Club organises regular socials and meet-ups for Town fans.
Join the Harrogate Town Supporters Club Facebook group to stay up to date with their latest news and events, or contact Jordan Ford.