Harrogate Town's returning fans have a big part to play in Rochdale AFC clash, says Simon Weaver
Simon Weaver says Harrogate Town’s fans will have a big part to play when his team host Rochdale on Saturday in what he has described as a special fixture.
Having been forced to kick-off 2020/21 – their debut season in the Football League – at the home of Doncaster Rovers while their newly-laid grass pitch took root, the Sulphurites will make history this weekend.
Although they did play in front of a limited number of socially-distanced spectators on three occasions last term, Saturday will see them walk out at Wetherby Road on the opening day of a new campaign as a League Two club for the first time.
And with ‘Dale, newly-relegated from League One, the visitors to the EnviroVent Stadium, Weaver feels 2021/22’s curtain-raiser is the “real deal.”
“It’s a big one,” he told the Harrogate Advertiser.
“Just talking about it now, I can feel the adrenaline running through my veins.
“It’s a proper Football League game. It’s a club who have just come down from League One against an aspirational, progressive team and we can’t wait for the challenge and to go out there and play with a full set of home and away supporters inside the stadium.
“It’s going to be the real deal. To be honest, I just want the game to come now and I think the lads do too because they are ready.”
Weaver has acknowledged and says he understands the discontent among Town supporters following problems at the EnviroVent Stadium which saw fans shut out of last month’s pre-season friendly against Sunderland and also led to a significant delay in tickets for Saturday’s game going on sale.
But he stressed that the backing of the Wetherby Road crowd makes a huge difference to his players and hopes that the Harrogate faithful get fully behind their team when they tackle Rochdale.
“It’s huge for us, when our fans are behind us it has been proven that they can inspire the lads onto victory and to great things,” he added.
“When tiredness sets in, they can provide that burst of adrenaline.
“When there is positive support behind us it makes such a difference. They will play a massive role, it cannot be understated.
“People say it’s a cheesy to say they are the 12th man but we feel it when they are for us and we also feel it when they are against us, so hopefully they will be with us on Saturday.”
And it is not just Harrogate’s players who are impacted by the crowd, with Weaver himself revealing just how much of a difference a full house makes to him personally.
“Everything goes through my head from seeing people filter into the stadium during the warm-up, to when I walk out of the changing room and over to the dug-out before kick-off,” the Town chief continued.
“I think of what has gone before and I think of where we want to be. It makes me feel part of something special when there is a full crowd because I feel like we are getting there.
“We are aiming to build the crowd, to create more special days at this ground and to make more positive memories.”
Having secured promotion from the National League via the play-offs last August, Town finished their first year in League Two 17th in the table, an effort that Weaver was satisfied with.
But he insists that his players must strive to continue improving this term.
“Obviously we want to retain our Football League status, we must achieve that, but we haven’t set a target or set a ceiling, we’ve got to dare to dream again,” he added.
“We don’t want to slip into a position where we are standing still or just thinking ‘this is enough’. We have to push on and show a drive to try and win every game.
“There is so much more that we still want to try and achieve.”