Harrogate Town opinion: Being one big happy family is sure to lead to further success
Guest columnist Fiona Jewitt offers a female perspective on Harrogate Town.
For more than two years now I have been trying, to no avail, to coerce my partner, Rhys (Howell - Harrogate Advertiser sports editor) into letting me give his readers a woman’s perspective on Harrogate Town
Suddenly, here I am, leading me to believe that someone more talented than me is on holiday this week.
So, what can I offer you with this female perspective on football in general and Harrogate Town specifically?
Before I met Rhys I didn’t really like any kind of domestic football, except for David Beckham in his Manchester United heydays, obviously.
I would occasionally scream at international games like I knew what I was talking about. And after England inevitably got knocked out of whichever tournament they were playing in at the time, would follow Holland for the win. They never tended to get much further either, but still.
I can’t tell you about the strategic approach of Harrogate Town’s defence or critique their set-pieces because I’d be guessing and I hate those who criticise when they don’t know what they’re talking about and/or couldn’t do it themselves.
I’m no pundit, or in any position to claim to be an expert, but what I can tell you is that I have firmly fallen in love with Simon Weaver’s crusade for promotion year on year.
From non-league to the EFL, to Wembley trips and triumphs and all those frustrating losses in between, I have gone from barely even realising that Harrogate Town existed to feeling caught up in their success story.
I have given more money to SkyBet from backing them to win than I care to tell you, but I won’t bet against them. Why? Because I sometimes see and hear things that you don’t and I know that one of these years, perhaps even the next one, we will see them promoted again.
I often sit in the same office as Rhys while he works (I too am working – not just looking longingly at him, before you start to wonder).
I am not privy to every conversation, but I've overheard the softly-spoken words of Irving Weaver talking about his club as if everyone connected are his family, and I hear wisdom and sincerity in his voice.
I've heard Simon Weaver speaking candidly about how things are tough sometimes but he’s staying loyal – which he does, sometimes to a fault, in my very unqualified opinion.
I've heard the fire that is Josh Falkingham being, well, fiery and I can tell that this team is being led by a passionate character.
I’ve also heard some selfless words from Jack Muldoon, talking about what is best for the team being the most important thing during the period earlier this year when he was rested and having to watch Josh March start in his position game after game.
All of these things tell me a lot, but it is the stuff that I NEVER hear or even get a sense of which reveals even more.
Even after the nosedives in form before Christmas and towards the back end of this season, I NEVER heard anyone bad-mouthing anyone else, trying to pin the blame or offering up what I would class as excuses.
Not Simon, not the players, absolutely no-one! They appear the absolute definition of a family. They have good times, they have bad times and they have amazing times and I for one feel part of that by association, or you could even say by accidently becoming a fan.
At the start of the season I was absolutely sure they would be strolling into the play-offs. Top of the league straight out of the gate, who could have foreseen this? Me, I completely expected it. They have the fire, the talent and the unity.
Then, week on week I follow them on Twitter while Rhys is away covering them and as the season progresses I squirm in my seat looking at the lack of goals scored, the opportunities lost and what seemed like a never-ending sequence of defensive mistakes.
Things might not have panned out the way I predicted, but do I think this has been a bad season overall? Absolutely not.
Harrogate Town achieved another Wembley triumph – making history by accident in becoming the first EFL club to win the FA Trophy –and, despite the fact that their bodies were destroyed from playing two seasons almost back-to-back, they have still finished 17th with a very respectable 57 points and ended up well clear of being forced back into their previous non-league life.
I cannot tell you how enthusiastic I am about attack next season. I cannot tell you how excited I am for them to build up a wider fan base – which they will, and they deserve to– once supporters are allowed back inside stadiums.
This is because they will continue to stick together. The family may grow but ultimately, they win together and they lose together. And I will win and lose with them again next season and I urge you to do the same.
So, in my unqualified, female, secret-hearing, nosey, unwanted opinion, I’m here to tell you to prepare for a play-off place for Town next season, at the very, very least.