View From the Press Box: FA Cup clash is a massive opportunity for Harrogate Town

The Harrogate Advertiser's Deputy Editor Matt Reeder looks ahead to the upcoming Harrogate Town v Portsmouth FA Cup clash...

Friday, 8th November 2019, 4:57 pm
Updated Friday, 8th November 2019, 9:56 pm
The Harrogate Advertiser's Deputy Editor Matt Reeder shares his reflections on the upcoming Harrogate Town v Portsmouth game...

Harrogate Town v Portsmouth - Only handful of tickets remain as Wetherby Road club prepares for massive FA Cup tie

It was May 2008. Wembley. The FA Cup Final. Portsmouth v Cardiff City.

I was stood in between my younger brother and my dad, our arms locked around each other’s waists, tears running down our cheeks, pride in our hearts and disbelief still running around in our excited minds.

It was the stuff of dreams; something we had never thought possible. As we stood there attempting what must have been a quite terrible rendition of the FA Cup Final anthem Abide With Me, a moment of realisation struck - this was probably as good as being a football fan was ever going to get.

There we were, the three of us together watching our beloved Portsmouth competing in an FA Cup Final at Wembley. Those precious few moments pre kick-off will live with me forever. For one fleeting moment it was not about the football, it was about us.

We had followed our club from the depths of the old fourth division in the early 1980s right up to the Premier League 20 or so years later, a topsy-turvy journey of too many ups and downs to mention and more than our fair share of heartaches.

We were no Liverpool or Manchester United, we were Portsmouth and never ever in my wildest dreams did I imagine we would make it to an FA Cup Final, let alone win one.

Kanu’s first-half goal was enough to seal the victory and when Sol Campbell held aloft that famous trophy, I’m not ashamed to admit that the tears started to flow once more.

Eleven years on from this, my greatest day in football, and the magic of the FA Cup has struck again, if in a quite different way. Portsmouth may have been the place where I grew up, where my family still live, and the football team which will forever fill my heart, but Harrogate is my home.

My three children were all born here, I live in the centre of town and I work here. I count Harrogate Town as my second team and go to games as regularly as possible.

I have watched and I have celebrated the club’s recent success, and even started to dream that Football League promotion is just around the corner.

I actually missed the Cup draw and it wasn’t until I saw a message from my son demanding that we get tickets that I realised my two footballing worlds had collided.

One of my friends even dubbed it the ‘Matt Reeder derby’, which made me chuckle. My Harrogate-based friends have already predicted an FA Cup ‘giant-killing’ is on the cards.

My Portsmouth-based friends have seen enough not to argue with such a plausible suggestion. As I made my way home north after our Cup win in 2008, I dreamed of Europe and pondering just how many years of domination we might expect.

But of course, the footballing Gods had other ideas and rather than multiple years of top flight dominance, my pre-match prediction was pretty much on the button. That glorious day at Wembley was as good as it got for Pompey and us supporters.

Years of financial over-spending came home to roost in an astronomical way and our fall from grace was even more spectacular than that of Leeds United. The team that arrives at the CNG Stadium on Monday evening is a far cry from the international laden super-squad which won silverware under the Wembley arch in 2008, and after a stuttering start this season, a cup shock is very much on the cards.

Under the lights, on a 4G pitch and in front of the TV cameras, this is a massive opportunity for Harrogate to show what they are capable of, and I am really looking forward to seeing what they can produce on the big stage.

The Weavers have done a magnificent job in making football matter in Harrogate and win, lose or draw on Monday, this game is just rewards for their efforts. However, come kick-off there will once again be three Reeders in the Pompey end dreaming of FA Cup glory.

This time it will be me, my dad and my son, Ben, cheering on the Blues. Cut us and we will bleed blue, even if mine does also have a yellow and black tinge.