From the Terraces: FA Trophy final u-turn is a 'kick in the teeth' for Harrogate Town supporters

Harrogate Town supporter Dave Worton's latest weekly fan column.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 10:44 am
Josh Falkingham led Harrogate Town to victory in the 2019/20 National League play-off final at Wembley Stadium. Picture: Getty Images

Harrogate Town supporters have missed out on attending a lot of landmark firsts during the last pandemic-hit 12 months.

The club’s maiden visit to Wembley and the chance to be there in person to see our team gain promotion to the Football League. An unbelieveable opening-day victory all the way down at Southend United.Beating Bradford City on their own ground and a victorious FA Trophy semi-final to name but a few of the main ones.

We’ve had to sit and watch our debut Football League season on computer screens and, whilst you find yourself adapting to the situation you’re in, being grateful that at least you can still do something whilst in lockdown, it’s been decidedly second-best.

Put aside these obvious landmarks though, the things I really miss are the little everyday occurrences that we all took for granted until March 2020.

I miss the walk to the ground, rain or shine, talking about the match to come with my daughter, and the first glimpse of the stand on emerging from the ginnel on Wetherby Road.

I can still do the walk of course, but it’s not the same without the sense of excitement, noise and anticipation at the other end.

I miss walking into the ground and greeting familiar faces, before finding a space on a crash barrier and chatting to the random person next to me.

Oh how I’d love to be able to pop into the club shop and browse the unsold programmes box for bargains, before ducking into the crowded bar at half-time to gain some respite from the elements.

Even when there’s nothing much happening on the pitch, there’s always something happening off it – gallows humour, random terrace wags and chants, the queue at the tea bar, the weather.

I’m never, ever again going to say, “We might have been better off staying at home today”, if Town are losing badly in the rain. I’ve seen staying at home for the past year, and I don’t like it.

I’m nothing special of course, we’re all missing many things during the pandemic, especially in terms of contact with other people.

Despite the occasional moan, I’m also fairly stoical about it all. It’s just the way it is, sometimes life doesn’t go the way you want it to.

To this end, you may have thought the FA announcement this week that Town are to play the FA Trophy final behind closed doors on May 3, along with the FA Vase final as part of the 2020 Non-League Finals Day, would be another missed landmark to chalk up to coronavirus.

However, the announcement came as a massive kick in the teeth to most Harrogate fans. We’ve already missed one trip to Wembley, and had been given hope that we would be able to watch the second.

Back in September of last year, the FA confirmed the postponement of the FA Trophy Final and stated: ‘We understand how important it is for the participating clubs’ fans to be able to attend and therefore will re-arrange at a date to be confirmed.’

To then re-arrange the final for a date only two weeks before supporters are allowed to return to stadia smacks of running a marathon, only to give up just before the finish line.

It also flies in the face of everything the FA originally said about the importance of fans at the event, and makes it appear insincere.

What makes the decision even harder to take, is that the 2021 Non-League Finals Day has been scheduled for May 22, when fans will be able to attend. The Sunday is currently blank.

With the FA Cup Final currently envisaged to be a test event with spectators and the FA planning to move the end of the Premier League season so that fans can attend in controlled numbers, we hope they will have a late change of mind with regards to the 2020 Non-League Finals which, after all came first, when the qualifying rounds were largely played in front of crowds.

Why not hold the 2020 Non-League Finals on Saturday May 22 and move the 2021 Finals to the Sunday?

The winners would hold the Trophy for one day only, and we can chalk that one stoically up to coronavirus, but at least fans would be able to attend.

A petition has been launched, asking the FA to re-think, either in terms of the date or the designation of the finals as a test event for spectators.

I urge you, the reader, to sign it and to ask everyone you know to sign it. Town fans are doing all they can to help circulate it.

Whether it pricks the conscience of the FA is yet to be seen. We can but try.