Jack Diamond crucial to Harrogate Town's mission to entertain this season

Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver is acutely aware his job is not just about winning matches but attracting fans to Wetherby Road, which was one reason why he was so keen to bring Jack Diamond back there.

The Sulphurites signed the 21-year-old winger for a second season-long loan from Sunderland on deadline day.

Despite their success of recent years, Harrogate's lack of longer-term footbaling pedigree means they have historically struggled for crowds.

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Their 1,301 average gate in their Conference promotion-winning season of 2019-20 was only the 18th highest in the division, and although it is up to 1,763 for the first three games of this season, it is the lowest average so far in League Two, where the average is 4,508.

ENTERTAINER: Jack Diamond celebrates scoring at Wembley for Harrogate Town in the 2020 Conference play-off final

Weaver knows that to make the club sustainable he needs to keep improving that, and exciting players like Diamond will help.

"We saw him again in pre-season (when Harrogate hosted Sunderland) and he caused us all sorts of problems with his ability to go inside and out," said Weaver.

"We want to build a crowd up at Harrogate and a way to do that is with people who do things which excite fans.

"I'm very conscious that at Harrogate we need people in because we have got one of the smaller fanbases so we're not just going to play five at the back, squeeze things and try to nick a goal on the counter-attack.

"It's in keeping with what we want to do as a coaching staff anyway but we can give ourselves more of a chance if we have players with the ability to excite children and families and get them into the ground. I want to see young fans there with Diamond, (Jack) Muldoon or (Josh) Falkingham on the back of their shirts."

After scoring in Harrogate's 2020 Conference play-off final win over Notts County at Wembley, Diamond returned to the Stadium of Light and made 24 league appearances last season, which was played behind closed doors, but only 11 from the start.

"I think he's at the stage where last season will have been a bit frustrating for him," acknowledged Weaver.

"We're at a step higher than when he played for us last time and I think if he makes 30 appearances for us this season he can go back to Sunderland in a good position. Obviously he has to play well but if he does he can go back there confident he's nailed the National League and League Two."

Although it has been restricted by a Covid-19 outbreak which took them out of action for 10 days, Harrogate have made a good start on the field in Weaver's quest to entertain. They have won three and drawn the other of their four League Two matches to date, scoring eight goals.

Danilo Orsi scored a hat-trick in Tuesday's Football League Trophy win over Mansfield Town at Wetherby Road, and fellow summer signing Luke Armstrong has three goals in his first four matches.

Harrogate play Mansfield again on Saturday, this time at Field Mill in the league.