3,700 Kidderminster Harriers fans travel north for FA Cup tie
The magic of the FA Cup has caught the imagination across Kidderminster this week as the town's football team prepares for its biggest game in years against Sunderland.
After seeing off Peterborough United in the third round, the Harriers will meet the Premier League side on Wearside, hoping to match the side's fortune 20 years ago when they reached the fifth round.
The club will be backed by more than 3,700 supporters who have bought tickets and will make the four-hour trip up to the North East on Saturday morning.
This week, the town has rallied behind the club, decking out shop fronts with commemorative scarves and shirts and sending messages of good luck to the players.
Life president of the Kidderminster Harriers Independent Supporters' Trust, Alan Shepherd, said: "We are delighted to have made it so far and now we can look forward to a real piece of FA Cup magic when we head up to Sunderland for the big game. It's a huge game and the result, despite the difference in teams, is not a foregone conclusion – you just have to look at recent cup upsets over the past few years.
"As long as we go up there and give it a good go then I will be able to come away with a smile, and that's a good enough result for me."
Woodstones Coaches, based a stone's throw from the club's home ground at Aggborough on the Hoo Farm Industrial Estate, is putting on 23 coaches for the supporters.
The fans will be boarding the buses from 8am, returning 14 hours later. Director Richard Meredith said: "It's going to be a special game for everyone at the club and we are delighted to be involved."
He added: "I'm hopeful we can get something out of it – it's a huge fixture and I'm sure the players will all be putting in 100 per cent."
The coach company usually puts on one coach for the team's away fixtures. Alan Watkins, owner of Cookley Family Butchers, has decorated the front of his shop with three Harriers' shirts as part of the build up to Saturday's big game. He is getting help to run the business so he can travel up to the game on one of the team's official buses.
"I would fill the whole shop front with the dozens of shirts I have but then I wouldn't be able to see anything outside," he said.
John Beard, owner of John Beard Tools and Ironmongery, will not be travelling to the game but is supporting the club by selling scarves from his shop in Bridge Street in Kidderminster. He said: "What I really hope is we can sneak a draw and bring the game back here for a replay so I can see the game myself."
Kidderminster Town Mayor John Campion will not be travelling to Sunderland for the game, but said he will 'glued' to his radio, listening to how the Harriers fare.
He said: "It is really about pride for the club. The Harriers' success makes people feel good about the area and the local football team." The club's last major FA Cup run was 20 years ago when they faced Birmingham City. They shocked the country by beating them 2-1 thanks to goals from Jon Purdie, a telephone engineer, and Neil Cartwright, a sign writer, and set up a tie with Preston North End.
They beat the Lancashire side but fell short at home to West Ham, then of the old Division One. Graham Allner was manager of the club. He said: "It was a brilliant experience, probably the highlight of my 15 years at the club, and put the town firmly on the football map."
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