Celtic and Newcastle United kicking off at Whitby

FISH and chips, fishing trips, but not usually football.

Whitby Town Football Club chairman Graham Manser.

All that is about to change in the picturesque seaside town of Whitby, where the beautiful game will be a leading summer attraction for holiday-makers and day-trippers who choose to visit the popular venue on Yorkshire’s coast over the next three days.

The inaugural Whitby Town Challenge Cup, featuring the hosts alongside the footballing giants of Celtic and Newcastle United and Dutch outfit AZ Alkmaar, gets underway at the Turnbull Ground tonight – with club officials hoping for a four-figure crowd in their marquee opener.

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It sees Celtic take on Newcastle (kick-off 7.45pm) and while the line-ups from both sides are expected to predominantly feature reserve players, a few recognised names could well appear on the teamsheet.

On Friday night, it is the turn of non-leaguers Whitby Town to take centre stage alongside Eredivisie side Alkmaar (7.45pm).

In the event of a draw in both games, penalties will decide the outcome with the losers from both nights meeting in a third-place play-off on Saturday (1.30pm). The final follows at 5.30pm with the winners receiving a specially-commissioned trophy.

The tournament has been organised by former Whitby Town chief and current Professional Football Coaches’ Association chairman Dave Richardson and club sponsor Graeme Hinchliffe following a chance meeting while strolling along the beach. What started off as an ambitious project quickly gathered pace and after Newcastle, Celtic and Alkmaar all accepted invitations, the club received approval from footballing bodies including the Football Association, Dutch FA, Scottish FA and North Riding FA.

With the relevant safety certificates then issued and police and stewarding cover finalised, the tournament received the green light.

Whitby Town chairman Graham Manser said: “Dave was walking along the beach at Runswick when he bumped into Graeme, who happened to have a Whitby Town polo-shirt on.

“Dave tackled him and they got talking and out of that discussion on a beach came this tournament. It is unbelievable.

“You come up with an idea and really sort of ignore it because it won’t happen. But it has happened.

“Dave has contacts all over and he has pulled it all together. Graham then took it over at our end to do the nitty-gritty. We obviously have had to get Alkmaar across from Holland and sort hotels and accommodation, for example.”

The hope of everyone connected with the Seasiders is that the competition can grow over the years and put the club and town on the sporting map.

Supporters can pay on the day at the Turnbull Ground, which has a capacity of 4,000.

Manser added: “The hope is to make it an annual event, that’s the idea. We are hoping to get 1,000 for the first game. With Whitby being a holiday place, it is full of trippers and, hopefully, it will be a winner as the town is absolutely bouncing.

“It won’t be Celtic or Newcastle’s first team, but there might be the odd first-teamer coming back from injury. They are still big clubs.

“We touted around the likes of Rangers, too. We had Rangers youth team here 20-odd years ago and we had 2,000 people here and I don’t know where they all came from and it caught us by surprise. But fans of big clubs will watch anything.”