Harrogate Town are one of those clubs who have come a long way; hitting the Football League big-time for the first time in 2020. Even as recently as 2004, Town were only in the Northern Premier League; as far away from meeting us for any reason as they were from mixing it in the Football League. In terms of us and them, we’d love to tell you the wait to meet each other for the first time was so worth it. But that’d be stretching the truth somewhat. The first four encounters gave us just four goals; three of which came in a single game when we won 3-0 in January 2022.
The entertainment factor, therefore, needs a bit more work in this fixture…
Harrogate Town: The Facts
The EnviroVent Stadium
Wetherby Road, Harrogate, HG2 7SA
It seems to be the story that, when it comes to football in the salubrious North Yorkshire spa resort of Harrogate, it took seven years to get a club off the ground. It all started in 1907. But it wouldn’t be until 1914 that a team formed under the name Harrogate AFC. Alas, World War One got in the way and it’d be another five years before the team would kick a ball in anger. Such was the gap and circumstances involved that we’re almost obliged to call that their second actual launch. And that isn’t even the end of the difficulties getting football to come to life in Harrogate.
In 1932, the club disbanded with only Yorkshire League honours to their name. The hiatus would last three years; a new club formed in 1935 called Harrogate Hotspurs. On the other side of World War Two, they went with the much more conventional name of Harrogate Town. Now, you feel, the story can really begin.
In 1957, Town joined the Yorkshire League. Or do we say rejoined? From here, the progress was slow and steady. It wasn’t without disappointment either. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, relegation undid all the hard work put in to gain promotion earlier in the 1960s. And there was the odd blip when they moved into the Northern Counties East League in the 1980s. But, overall, the path moved in the right direction. Not unlike Boro’s, actually. Anyway, in 1987, another change in competition took them into the Northern Premier League.
Why do we know Town?
It wasn’t until the 21st century that things started to speed up. Town were promoted to the Northern Premier League Premier Division (wha?) in 2003. Two years later, they secured a place in Conference North. Here, the club would set up shop and become familiar with their surroundings. You could say they were building solid foundations. But it could equally have gone so different if not for the demise of Northwich Victoria in 2010. After finishing bottom at the end of the 2009-10 campaign, the Vics went under and Town were spared relegation.
The lesson learned, Town kicked on and had more good seasons than not. It came to a peak in 2018; a fantastic year that, while comfortably adrift of champions Salford City, saw them come second with 100 goals for. Town triumphed in the playoffs and were into the National League’s main event. In their first campaign at the top table of non-league football, they were ousted in the playoffs. But they wouldn’t make the same mistake in 2019-20; lying second at the early end of a Covid-hit season. Well, OK – PPG confirmed their promotion to the Football League.
At the same time, it was our turn to be reprieved from relegation. Funny how it works.
How to get to Harrogate Town – Travel Information – Distance: 172 miles
You’d be surprised at how simple this road trip is – even though it’s a bit long. Go north on the A1(M) and A1 up as far as Junction 45, which is signposted for the A659 to Wetherby (and Otley). Take the first exit at the roundabout and then, at the following roundabout in a mere 0.2 miles, take the second exit for the A168 in towards Wetherby.
On the edge of the town, you get to another roundabout. Take the second exit and head in towards the centre. Cross the Wharfe; taking a left at the mini-roundabout shortly after for the A661. Snake your way around on the A661 and continue on this for about 3.3 miles. At this point, you’ll be in Spofforth and a roundabout outside the Castle Inn.
Take the second exit at the roundabout to remain on the A661. At the next roundabout in a while (A658), continue straight across on the A661. This takes you into Harrogate; passing car dealers on the right and a Sainsbury’s on the left. Eventually, the ground is on the right too. If you emerge out into an expanse of greenery, you’ve now gone past it.
You won’t find any parking at the ground itself and many local streets have restrictions in place. That can make it a little tricky to find somewhere close. But it’s not impossible.
Other options include Kingswood Surgery on Wetherby Road, which operates on a first-come, first-served basis and costs £5 per car. If you want to park at the nearby Cedar Court Hotel, you’ll have to enter your vehicle and card details at reception.
You can get a direct train from London to Harrogate – but it doesn’t stop at Stevenage. It only runs once or twice a day too. So, you’ll have to switch at Leeds – like it or not. That, in itself, isn’t too challenging.
From Harrogate station, the shortest walk is roughly a mile. But it rests on how much you wish to make use of the town centre’s facilities. To go straight to the ground, come out of the main entrance of the station (you’ll likely be arriving on this side anyway). Turn left and then left again adjacent to an Everyman cinema.
This takes you over the railway and towards an Odeon cinema. At the Odeon, keep going straight on for Station Avenue and keep going. You’ll get to Knaresborough Road; running through the leafy expanse of The Stray. Go left here if you’re calling at The Empress. Else, just go straight across in a diagonal line towards Wetherby Road.
You’re essentially cutting off the corner that is created by the roundabout to your left. At Wetherby Road, turn right and cross over for the station.
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