Daily Express

On brink of history ...but around town I’m just ‘that bloke who chats to Gareth Southgate’


- By Jeremy Cross

SIMON WEAVER finds himself teetering on the brink of history as he looks to cement his place in Harrogate folklore.

But even if Weaver does lead Harrogate Town into the Football League for the first time, he will never be the most famous manager in the Yorkshire spa town. He won’t even come close.

That accolade belongs to a certain Gareth Southgate, the England manager who lives on the outskirts of Harrogate and has become friends with Weaver.

Weaver said: “I bumped into him once because we shared the same gym. We swapped numbers and have kept in touch. After he left Middlesbro­ugh I organised a charity game and he played on the opposite side to me.

“I texted him during the World Cup in 2018 to say well done for reaching the semi-finals, and he replied almost straight away saying ‘thanks’ and then asked how we were all doing at Harrogate Town. It showed the sort of bloke he is. He does care about others.

“After he came back from Russia I bumped into him in a shop in Harrogate and we got chatting. He was really honest about what happened and just said the team had run out of steam a bit. Then he asked me about

Harrogate Town again. I walked out of the shop and this couple came over to me and said, ‘Excuse me, but was that really Gareth Southgate?’ I just sighed and said ‘yes’.

“I do get recognised a little bit, but I used to walk through the town with my hood up when I first became manager because the club wasn’t very nice to be honest, the facilities were poor and the pitch was rubbish.” That was in 2009, when his club were languishin­g in the depths of the sixth tier. Since then Weaver, who is the longest-serving boss in the National League, had led them to second place in the table and within touching distance of League Two before Covid-19 turned football upside down. National League bosses have yet to determine promotion and relegation in the wake of their campaign being scrapped, leaving Weaver and the club, owned by his dad – property magnate Irving Weaver – in limbo.

Weaver said: “There is nothing in the history books to recognise second place, should the worst thing happen, but in the rule book it states two sides should go up.

“If it’s decided on fixed placing then we can still go up in second, if there are promotions in the EFL.

“I think it’s important to the integrity of the league and football in general.

“But we understand our place in football – and have earned the right to be in the discussion. It would be so big for us.”

 ??  ?? RISING STARS Simon Weaver and his Harrogate players have eyes on League Two
RISING STARS Simon Weaver and his Harrogate players have eyes on League Two
 ??  ?? CARING: Weaver praised England boss Southgate
CARING: Weaver praised England boss Southgate
 ??  ??

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