This may be a special treat for our star writer, Sixer, and our deputy editor, Malcolm Dawson. The first question put to our Kidderminster Harriers interviewee explains why. The euphoria of Old Trafford gives way, on Saturday, to the more modest experience of a home game against Kidderminster Harriers. Scott Jones* is the matchday announcer at the Harriers’ ground, Aggborough. He’s also a home-and-away ever-present. I cannot imagine a better candidate …
Salut! Sunderland: Two members of Salut! Sunderland‘s editorial team are avid non-league followers, too, so I wouldn’t dream of asking “Kidderminster Who?”. But tell us more about your club and its long attachment to Aggborough
Aggborough was originally opened back in 1890, but since then it has gone through quite a few changes. As a 26 year old I cannot claim to have seen too many of them. I do remember attending Harriers games at a very young age when it was the main old stand which can be said seemed very dated. In an attempt to make Aggborough suitable for league football this stand was knocked down in 1994 and replaced with the current main stand. Unfortunately the new stand wasn’t finished in time which resulted in Harriers not being able to take the promotion they had won that season. Also during our spell in the Football League the old cow shed (with all its character) was replaced with our new East Stand seating which I believe to have cost £1.1 million.
Past cup glory, including the geographical nonsense of two Welsh Cup finals, and a spell in the Football League – what’s in store next?
The Premiership? Europe? or even a FA Cup 4th round win ;). On a more serious note I think the club have made very clear that their main interest is getting back into the Football League. Having just missed out on the play-offs a few times, last season we found form that was at the time better than Manchester United and Barcelona’s. This saw us just miss out on the title spot but unfortunately we couldn’t take that form into the play-offs and just narrowly missed out on that dream. With a great start to our season, being placed 2nd for majority, we were hoping that was our season. So all in all conclusion is hopefully a return to football league will be next.
You had an away replay to win when Sunderland’s name came out of the hat but what did you make of the draw once you’d beaten Posh? What sort of support will you bring?
With a replay at London Rd still to get through the draw seemed nothing more than just a tease of what we could’ve had. Thankfully the players didn’t see it that way and they battled hard and got the reward. So leaving the ground after a great game of football which we, as the underdogs, had won I finally realised, we now have a tie against Premiership team at a Premiership ground.
The buzz around Kidderminster Harriers and the town in general has been fantastic. As I am writing this I believe the tickets sold are around 3,500 with more tickets still being snatched up. Well done Harriers fans.
If not already covered, what do you make of Steve Burr’s departure and Andy Thorn’s appointment? Thorn seems a decent bloke so we can forgive him for having played for Newcastle.
As Thorn was with Wimbledon and “The Crazy Gang” I’ve got to be careful what I put here. The departure of Steve Burr was in some ways a shock and in other ways I could see it coming. It had been well documented that Steve had been approached by Forest Green Rovers about their managerial vacancy and had asked permission to speak to them. It was later announced that Steve Burr would be staying with the Harriers – to the fans’ delight. A little bit of faith had been lost by the Harriers faithful but now was the time to win that back.
Unfortunately a dip in form found its way to Aggborough. Moving into the FA Cup, Harriers recorded a good win over last season’s play-off winners, Newport County (payback felt good). Third round came and Harriers recorded another FA Cup shock by holding Peterborough to a nil-nil draw at Aggborough. Were things starting to get back on track? Then at an unexpected time it was announced that Harriers had parted ways with Steve Burr. The same day another shock hit us as a new manager was already appointed; this I didn’t expect. With Thorn still being fairly new around Aggborough it is hard to really pass any judgement.
Who are the players you reckon could make it at a higher level, and where are you weak?
This would’ve been easier a week ago as Harriers’ summer signing Joe Lolley had spun up a lot of interest in his first few months in the Skrill Premier. There are still players in our squad who I believe are capable of moving up to a higher level at some point in their careers. Chey Dunkley is one I believe will play at a higher level.
Does the competition from nearby professional clubs make another promotion to the league a poisoned chalice or do you feel KHFC could, in the right hands, establish itself in League Two or above?
We don’t have it easy with teams such as Aston Villa, Birmingham City, West Brom, Wolverhampton and Walsall all not far and easily accessible from Kidderminster. As a league club, our average attendance was around 4,000. Although attention does get pulled the other way with cheap tickets to Prem games, support at Aggborough has always been good. I believe if we make it to the Football League we can establish ourselves. As for above, we’ll take it one step at a time.
What have been your highs and lows of supporting the club – eg are you old enough to have seen the 1994 cup run as well as, presumably, those of 2004 and 2009?
I can remember the hype of 94 cup run and being left in grandparents’ care as everyone as was at the Aggborough for the 5th round tie against West Ham United. Previously in that run we had knocked out Birmingham City in the 3rd round – Barry Fry was then their manager. Twenty years later, in 2014, Kidderminster knock Peterborough out of the 3rd round and who happens to be their chairman but Barry Fry? Can’t see him wearing a Harriers scarf any time soon. Seeing Kidderminster play in the first domestic game at the new Wembley in front of 53,262 was defiantly a high. Until the final whistle went.
And who have been the greatest players you’ve seen in KHFC colours – and who didn’t deserve to wear them?
Starting of as a young Harrier I remember players like Delwyn Humphries, Paul Hocker Davies, Jon Purdie (scorer of the wining goal against Birmingham City in ’94.) During our Conference-winning season ex-Liverpool player Mike Marsh had to stand out to any Harriers fan. Seeing Lee Hughes as a player for Kidderminster was another highlight.
Did Sunderland’s abysmal start to the season surprise you or did you always suspect the Di Canio gamble would end badly?
In fairness I don’t follow much Premiership football, I am a non-leaguer through and through (except if Harriers gain promotion).
Have there been any player/staff links between our two clubs?
Not to my knowledge.
What inspires you about football at your level and what stops you being drawn to loftier neighbours?
As a child I grew up going to Kidderminster Harriers and watching Conference football. I was always taken in by the passion of fans and the players. The closeness you can get with other fans. Being able to walk from one side of the stadium to another and choosing whether to sit or stand. Attending events held by the club and travelling to away games on official travel, you meet a lot of people who share your passion and grow a little football community. Being able to speak to most fans on the away terrace by name. That’s the attraction to lower league football for me.
Where will you finish this season, who will win the Premier League and will Sunderland avoid the drop?
After the first few months of the season I would’ve gone with a possible top finish with play-offs very likely. After a few shake-ups at Harriers and a few injuries and suspensions setting us back I am now hoping we can hop into one of the play-off places but it won’t be easy with a lot of good teams also trying the same. I favoured Manchester City at the beginning of the season but Arsenal are defiantly proving there worth this season. First silverware since moving to the Emirates.
Brazil: already excited or struggling to raise much interest?
Always excited when a World Cup is approaching. Time is already booked off work, Only problem with the World Cup is it’s full of excitement shortly followed by disappointment.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score?
I will be making my first of two journeys to the North East in a week with this weekend’s game. There is a lot of buzz with Harriers fans for this game and I can imagine a great atmosphere from our fans making an appearance. Cup games like these are always a hard one to call, so many different aspects could be taken into consideration. I am going to go with a 1 – 0 home win.
* Scott Jones on himselfAfter reading me drivel on, I will now finally introduce myself. I am 26 and have been attending Harriers games for 20y ears. I enjoy travelling with friends using official coach travel to watch the mighty Reds and attend all matches. On match days at Aggborough I don’t get as much time to relax and enjoy as I work as the matchday announcer. Since attending the club and the whole non-league scene I have just been an addict ever since as demonstrated above. Have a great day and enjoy the game everybody.
Interview: Colin Randall
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