Harrogate Town take proud view from the summit

YOU can always trust a father to try and keep his son's feet firmly on the ground.

Leading the way: Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver. Picture: Matt Kirkham
Leading the way: Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver. Picture: Matt Kirkham

That proved to be the case at the International Stadium on Tuesday evening when Harrogate Town manager Simon Weaver’s dad Irving – the club chairman – spoke of safety targets as opposed to table-topping feats as their exhilarating National League start reached new heights after a 3-2 victory at Gateshead.

But after that dutiful message of sage, fatherly advice was dispensed with, the pair would not have been human if they did not briefly indulge in a special father-and-son moment to savour a wonderful-looking league table.

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It shows that Harrogate, nine games into their maiden season in English football’s fifth tier, are the new leaders after Aaron Williams’s late winner on Tyneside.

It is a sight which Weaver Jnr will not tire of looking at.

On whether he has viewed the table – something many managers traditionally shy away from in early autumn – Weaver said: “Definitely. You have got to, haven’t you? We are nine games in and, if everyone is being honest, you always have a look.

“It is all about the balance for us. No-one is getting carried away, but you also have to enjoy the moment as well because we have just gone up.

“Although my dad is the chairman, he told me how many points we needed to stay up after the (Gateshead) game and, obviously, that is his priority.

Harrogate Town boss Simon Weaver and chairman (and dad) Irving Weaver.

“But that is notwithstanding the fact we are enjoying it together. It is a tight-knit group who share the same goal of competing well at this level.”

On their thrilling midweek win, he added: “It was fantastic to win in the 85th minute, although not good for the heart!

“There was a really good atmosphere created by our fans and everyone showed their fighting spirit, which they have done in abundance last year and this. The players just keep going to the final whistle.”

After the tumultuous highs of their historic promotion in late Spring, the feelgood factor has extended throughout summer and into the autumn for Harrogate, who have not been beaten in their last 12 competitive matches.

Word has also clearly got around the spa town that the club are on to something good.

Crowds are averaging around 1,200 – and with mouthwatering games to come at the CNG Stadium later this month against two high-flying rivals and former league clubs in Leyton Orient and Wrexham, that average is likely to swell.

It is all a far cry from Weaver’s early days at the helm a decade ago, when crowds numbered around 250.

“It feels like everyone is in it together and we keep going along,” said Weaver, whose side must first host Havant and Waterlooville in their first home game of September this weekend.

“Without the crowd, we cannot sustain it and that is part of the business plan. Everyone is making a contribution.

“The growing support is fresh and going just a few years back, the attendance was nowhere near what it is now. We are gaining a lot of new supporters because of the player development and coaching on our (3G) pitch and five first-team staff.

“We are averaging 1,200 and if we can sustain this, we are hoping for 1,500 to 1,600. We are keen on getting that on Saturday to really drive on.

“Since we went full-time, our home form has been good. We thought we had to take advantage of this home form and we have done so far this season.

“The fans have been fantastic. The travelling support are getting a reputation for how charismatic they are and we have got a cracking atmosphere at home. The fans sing non-stop and are enjoying the moment.

“You spoke to people in Harrogate at the end of last season and it was: ‘Can we get over the line and then it was ‘can we stay up?’ Everyone is inclined to enjoy the moment, but we also know it can be a brutal league if you take your foot off the gas. That is the challenge for us.”

The fact that Harrogate are one of just two sides who still boast an unbeaten divisional league record this season – the other being Orient – points to a strength of character which suggests there is unlikely to be any easing off.

“We recruited new players who we thought could give us a good edge and make us competitive,” added Weaver.

“Aligned with the mentality of last season, which was a winning one with the fighting spirit, it has enabled us to bind quickly and the new signings to fit into a close-knit changing room. They have done with ease, to be fair.”