STOCKPORT COUNTY FC

Take five… Harrogate Town

County host Harrogate Town on Saturday in a 3pm kick off, and ahead of the match County Tweet-meister Gareth Evans has put-together five factoids on our opponents for you.

  1. 1. Our third game within a week this Saturday, and the clubs we face keep getting older!

Quite so. Having played the ridiculously young whippersnappers from Spennymoor (born 2005) and the still-relatively-youthful Curzon Ashton (1963), the Hatters now receive Harrogate Town, who, in 2014, would have received a congratulatory telegram from Her Majesty – were that the way of Planet Football.

  1. 2. Hang on – they weren’t formed in 1914, though! What’s with that ‘1919 Venue’ bar of theirs?

Well, 1914 was the year that the club – as Harrogate AFC – came into being. But, with the outbreak of World War One, it then had to kick its heels for five years before playing a first competitive match. Hence the commemoration of 1919 within the confines of Wetherby Road – although the ground itself dates from 1920. Whichever way you look at it, there are more good excuses ahead for Town to dust off and put up the 100th Anniversary balloons and bunting!

Harrogate, as a town, does have another reason to celebrate 1919 as a bona fide centenary, though – for it was then when the original Bettys tea room opened the doors of its first premises in Cambridge Crescent. And, interestingly (well, quite interestingly), the building in Parliament Street that now houses Bettys – but 98 years ago was the Café Imperial – provided the venue that same year for a public meeting at which plans were agreed for putting the club properly into action.

  1. 3. Got it… I think. But fast-forward a century – or whatever – and Town look to be on the rise in this modern world of ours, eh?

Plenty of change is certainly afoot. The club is one of just two (Gainsborough Trinity being the only other, following Stalybridge Celtic’s relegation last term) that has remained in the National League North since the formation by the Conference of regional sub-divisions in 2004. But, backed by chairman Irving Weaver, it is making a concerted effort to push onwards and upwards – having this season joined the ever-increasing ranks of full-time outfits at our level.

And, of course, the ‘Sulphurites’ – so nicknamed because of the sulphur springs to be found in their spa town – no longer play home matches on grass, either. The turf at Wetherby Road was ripped up, and replaced with a 3G surface, 12 months previously.

  1. 4. Good news for County’s planning purposes, given that we go there in mid-January!

Sure is. Our scheduled New Year’s Day trek across the Pennines in 2015/16 was one of the games that got rained off at Harrogate during the final season in which grass grew – but postponed games in HG2 should now be a thing of the past, even in the bleak mid-winter when we Hatters tend to have to visit!

On which note, spare a thought for supporters of Bishop Auckland – who had to wait so long to play a rearranged match against Harrogate that none of them actually remained alive on the new date! What must surely be the longest postponement ever dated from 5 September 1914, when Harrogate AFC were due to take their competitive bow – but withdrew from the Northern League on the day of the fixture, and did not travel to face the ‘Bishops’, after their players had been called up to serve in the Great War. By way of an apology for the cancellation at such short notice, Harrogate invited their hosts-that-never-were down to Wetherby Road for a centenary-celebration match at Wetherby Road on 7 September 2014, 100 years and two days later!

  1. 5. Quirky stuff! And doesn’t Saturday provide a second opportunity running for County to beat the league leaders?

It certainly does – with Town having so far put four past Nuneaton, and scored two at North Ferriby, in each case without reply. Let us hope – to misquote Toontown legend Sylvester James Pussycat, Sr. – that they are ‘suffering Sulphurites’, come 5pm!

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