Morpeth Town fan and volunteer looks forward to club's 'biggest game since Vase final'
The Highwaymen travel to York City in the FA Trophy fifth round looking to continue a record-breaking run which has already seen them progress further in the competition than ever before.
It represents their second trip to York’s new LNER Community Stadium in the space of four months, having drawn 1-1 in the FA Cup in October before losing the replay, and Graham Johnson will be among the estimated 800 Morpeth fans making the journey.
The 57-year-old began helping out at Craik Park around six years ago, shortly before they memorably lifted the FA Vase courtesy of a 4-1 win over Hereford, and has since developed a strong bond with the club on and off the field.
“I don’t know how I wasn’t going before, I live about 800 yards from the pitch!” said Johnson, who is part of a team who help run the bars and catering at Craik Park.
“I quickly got the bug and it’s become a massive part of my life. I went to Wembley for the Vase and that cemented my feelings for the football club, as did the people I met up there.
“We volunteer for the love of the club, of football and the players. We have a smashing group of lads who also get involved with the volunteers – they’re all really grounded.
“It's one big happy place when it’s all going well and the camaraderie in our group of volunteers is fantastic. We’re all friends outside the game and we can’t wait for Saturday.”
Morpeth, who have won three penalty shootouts on their Trophy adventure so far, are one of more than 200 clubs across the Trident Leagues to be supported by Pitching In, a multi-million-pound grassroots sport investment programme established by Ladbrokes with the support of its owner Entain.
In addition to financial support, the initiative highlights the community aspect of non-league football and Johnson hopes this Trophy run can act as a similar catalyst to the Vase win when it comes to getting fans through the gate.
“I’ve never lived anywhere else and the town is definitely a lot more behind the club than it has been in the past,” he said.
“Some of my fellow volunteers have been there longer than me and was a time when only 30 or 40 were going. Now we’re regularly getting five, six, seven hundred and we had 1,500 in for the derby with South Shields on Tuesday night.
“Morpeth should have a 1,000+ gate every game so hopefully we can win on Saturday and keep building the interest.
“The Trophy run has been brilliant and this game is our biggest since the Vase final, without a shadow of a doubt.
“We should have won there [York] in the FA Cup and we’ll go there with confidence.”
Ladbrokes, with the support of its owner Entain, has launched a multi-million pound investment programme, Pitching In, designed to support and promote grassroots sports. For more details see: https://entaingroup.com/sustainability/pitching-in/