From the Terraces: Are football fans being treated like second-class citizens?

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

Thursday, 15th October 2020, 6:31 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th October 2020, 6:32 pm
Harrogate Town supporters at Wetherby Road pre-Covid-19.

Simon Weaver took the words right out of my mouth this week. The win at an empty Valley Parade, in front of the Sky TV cameras on Monday night, ranks right up there as one of Town’s greatest victories over the last few years.

It’s not that our hosts were a decent team, indeed far from it, but we’re talking ex-Premier League Bradford City here.

What was most pleasing, for me, was the manner of the performance. Town pressed with high energy, both on and off the ball, for the entire 90 minutes, and the Bantams just couldn’t cope.

Lloyd Kerry scored the only goal of the game as Harrogate Town beat Bradford City at Valley Parade on Monday evening. Picture: Matt Kirkham

It was almost the perfect performance. I say ‘almost’ because the only thing lacking was a clinical finish in front of goal, and the ability to make the most of some superb approach work.

So much so, that I found myself screaming for someone to make a run to the near post, as yet another cross was cleared by the first defender.

All my concerns were finally banished in the 74th minute, with Lloyd Kerry ghosting into that near post area, deftly steering a Jack Muldoon cross past the Bradford keeper and into the net.

It had echoes of the George Thomson and Jack Diamond goals at Wembley, and was celebrated wildly in this house.

With 25 shots to Bradford’s nine, the margin of victory could have been more, especially as Town were denied a one-on-one situation, just after the first goal, by a cynical challenge from home midfielder Elliot Watt on Josh Falkingham.

The Sky TV commentator announced that Town “pretty much battered the Bantams on their own patch,” and you’ll find no disagreement from me. I couldn’t be prouder of my team this Tuesday morning, especially as one of my co-workers is a Bradford fan.

Keen to get a football fix on Saturday, I made the short trip to Manse Lane, to watch another Town, Knaresborough, take on another Bradford team, Eccleshill United.

On paper, it looked like a nailed-on home win, as the visitors had lost four out of four. But, it was not to be.

Eccleshill came away two-nil winners in a feisty encounter, which threatened to veer out of control in the second half, as a few, shall we say, ‘tasty’ challenges flew in. Knaresborough had two players sent off; one for violent conduct and one for swearing at the referee; so loudly in fact, that I heard every word clearly from the opposite end of the pitch.

The man in the middle certainly hadn’t distinguished himself, but even I was starting to feel sympathy for him, having to run a gauntlet of bad language for most of the second half. I think he’d just about had enough.

Despite being down to nine men, Town camped in the visitors’ half in the final minutes, only being undone by a breakaway goal in injury-time.

All of this drama was played out whilst the rain bucketed down, as I got colder and wetter, having left my raincoat at home. You just can’t beat a proper, live football match.

As is often the case in these covid-dominated days, I did find myself coming away slightly bemused, as well as drenched.

Having socially distanced, as encouraged by a multitude of bright yellow ‘two metres distance’ stickers displayed prominently on the barriers around the ground, I found myself looking on in disbelief, as the entire Eccleshill team and their coaching staff disappeared into a tiny, enclosed, tardis-like portacabin on the final whistle, shutting the door behind them.

That bemusement, however, was nothing compared to the witnessing of a thousand people in a half-full, indoor London Palladium cheering Arsene Wenger to the rafters at the weekend, whilst we still can’t attend outdoor events in a much more socially-distanced way in the EFL.

How on earth does that make any sense? Football supporters really do seem to be second-class citizens.

With the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, recently confirming that now is not the time to populate football stadiums again until “we get the disease under control,” I’m certainly not hopeful of a return any time soon.

The British public locked down in March, in good faith, to protect the NHS, reduce infection and to buy time for the government to bring in a functioning test, trace and isolate system.

We stuck to our side of the bargain, our leaders didn’t. We now need to see financial support at our level quickly, or clubs will surely go to the wall.