Roger King is a lifelong Notts fan currently exiled in North Yorkshire, from where he has followed Harrogate's progress in recent times. Here he gives an insight into the club we face in the Vanarama National League play-off final at Wembley on Sunday.
After finishing sixth and reaching the play-offs last season, how was the Harrogate squad improved to secure second place this season?
The strength of Harrogate is that ten members of the squad who played against Boreham Wood were in the matchday 16 when they were promoted from National League North in 2018 and this player bond has played a big part in their success. Of course the addition of Jon Stead also helped, as did going full-time in 2017. Simon Weaver has been Harrogate's manager since 2009 and his father, Irving, has owned the club since 2011, when they were getting crowds of about 250. What a wonderful achievement to progress to their current position.
Did Harrogate expect to overtake Barrow at the top until lockdown ended the regular season prematurely?
Harrogate were confident they could overtake Barrow. They were only four points behind and they would have played them at home on 1 April.
Will playing on Wembley’s grass, as against the artificial surface at Wetherby Road, help, hinder or make no difference to Harrogate’s high-tempo style of play on Sunday?
They have no problem playing on grass rather than their own 3G. In fact they think their style of play will be helped on the large expanses of Wembley.
Who are Harrogate’s key men?
Jack Muldoon is their top scorer with 13 goals, plus the winner against Boreham Wood in the play-off semi-final. Goals have been fairly evenly spread throughout the team, with Stead scoring seven. Captain Josh Falkingham is very influential in midfield, while Nottingham-born goalkeeper James Belshaw has been consistent and played in all 37 games, keeping 14 clean sheets. He was a member of Notts' academy for eight years, until he was 15. Apparently, when Notts were relegated at the end of last season, he predicted that Harrogate would play Notts in the play-off final, saying it was "written in the stars". Paul, his father, is a Notts season ticket holder!
Stead was very popular with our fans, has he made a similar impact at Harrogate? Stead is quoted as saying: "I wish Notts County and their fans all the luck in the world, but not on Sunday. As a footballer you have to be loyal to the badge on the front of your shirt and my focus is purely on Harrogate Town." He has spent time on the subs bench and been sent off twice earlier in the season, but has still managed seven goals.
What is the general feeling among Harrogate fans about facing us in Sunday’s final?
I think they are cautiously optimistic, but realistic in that they know they are playing a strong, professional side.
Have Harrogate done anything unusual in their build-up to the final?
England manager Gareth Southgate lives in Harrogate and has addressed the team at a local hotel and given them tips on set pieces, penalties and the mental attitude required to deal with such a huge game.