The 2017/18 season was one of highs and lows for all 24 sides in the Vanarama National League, and next term we’ll have six new sides to face from across the country. This week we take a look at a side competing in non-league's top tier for the first time, Harrogate Town.
Name: Harrogate Town
Manager: Simon Weaver
Ground: Whetherby Road (Capacity: 4,000)
2017/18 league position: 2nd (Vanarama National League North)
Manager Simon Weaver is one of the longest serving in English football at the moment, having been with the Town for nine years, seven of which have been spent under the control of his father, Irving, the chairman of Harrogate Town.
He began his career with Sheffield Wednesday in 1996 as a defender and made his professional debut with Doncaster Rovers whilst out on loan. Upon his release from Hillsborough in 1998 he joined Ilkeston and would go on to play for Nuneaton Borough and Lincoln City. Weaver's career would remain in the lower reaches of league football with a loan spell at Macclesfield Town and a year with Kidderminster in 2004/05. He dropped into non-league with Scrarborough and would go on to end his playing days with York City, Tamworth, Boston United, King's Lynn, Redditch and a second spell with Ilkeston before making his move to Whetherby Park in 2009.
He took on the role as player-manager which he did for three years, before hanging his boots up in 2012. He remained in the Conference North/National League North for nine years and following their failure to go up in 2016/17 oversaw the transition of turning professional. Alas in 2017/18 Weaver masterminded their promotion, battling with Salford City for the league title but missing out, nonetheless they would achieve their aim via the play-offs, beating Brackley Town in the final.
Town striker Dominic Knowles will be looking to take a step back up to the National League having scored 16 goals last term. The former Burton Albion striker certainly found where the net is whilst back in Yorkshire and will be an asset alongside former Wrexham forward Mark Beck. Harrogate have also been busy in the transfer market bringing in Callum Howe from Port Vale and Kelvin Langmead. Perhaps their biggest sign of content came this week, with Brackley striker Aaron Williams joining the side, having grabbed 24 goals in the National League North last season.
Although originally homed at Starbeck Lane, Whetherby Road - or the CNG Stadium - has been the ground of Harrogate since 1920. Housing 4,000 supporters it's had work done over the years with the Hospital End being built in 2014. Well connected to public transport, the ground has an all-seater main stand as well as covered standing facilities. In 2016 they installed a brand new 3G pitch to replace the grass surface.
Formed in 1914, Harrogate have spent their entire history in the non-league of English football. Although they've never played in the higher reaches they have added silverware to their trophy cabinet over the years, where in the early days they were crowned Yorkshire League champions in 1927. They've won eight West Riding County Challenge Cups, with the most recent coming in 2008. Perhaps their best spell came during the 1980's as they rose six leagues in six years to go from the Yorkshire Third Division to the Northern Premier from 1981 to 1987. In 2004 they won the Northern Premier league to head up to the sixth tier, and of course, last month made their way to the National League.