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Fan Focus: Harrogate fan Katherine says Sunderland’s Jack Diamond can be a crucial first-teamer!

Ahead of Sunderland’s trip to Harrogate this afternoon, Matthew Crichton spoke to Harrogate fan Katherine Swinn. They discussed Harrogate’s survival in League Two last season, the development of Jack Diamond, ex-SAFC striker Jon Stead, as well as what Lee Johnson’s side can expect to encounter during the friendly.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Matthew Crichton: Harrogate finished 17th in their first ever season in League Two, comfortably avoiding relegation by 12 points - how big of an achievement was that given your budget?

Katherine Swinn: The fans were very happy with that. As it was our first ever season in the football league, the priority was to ensure that we stayed up and we did that comfortably.

MC: Simon Weaver has managed the club since 2009, a long-term tenure which is very rare in modern football - what does he do which has made him so successful as manager of the club?

KS: His father, Irving, is the Chairman so it’s a real family club. The success has come in the last few seasons from when the club became full time and had a 3G pitch.

Simon Weaver likes to have a tight knit group of players. He has high standards and encourages a passing style which really suits the players. Several of the players played in the National League North, so the core of the squad has remained the same.

MC: Heading into your second season in League Two, what are your expectations moving forward?

KS: Improvement on our position last season and perhaps an optimistic push for the play offs. There were a number of games where we lost by only one goal and there wasn’t much between the teams, so it is certainly possible for us to push on this season.

The club is ambitious, expects players to work hard and won’t settle for mediocrity. However, given it will be our second season in the football league, we may wish just to consolidate.

Harrogate Town v Notts County - Vanarama National League Play Off Final
Jack Diamond scored four goals in 30 appearances whilst on loan at Harrogate.
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

MC: Jack Diamond enjoyed an excellent loan spell with Harrogate during your sides’ promotion campaign in 2019/20 - do you think he has the potential to become a crucial part of Lee Johnson’s side?

KS: Absolutely. He just needs to be given a run of games and for the manager to believe in him. I think confidence plays a big part in his game.

MC: Harrogate’s marquee signing this summer was striker Luke Armstrong from Salford, who scored 13 to help fire Hartlepool to promotion last season - are you at all concerned by his lack of goals in the professional leagues?

KS: Not at all. There isn’t much difference between the standard in the National League and the Football League.

He’s looked sharp in the friendlies that he’s played so far and scored his first goal for the club against Rotherham on Wednesday. That was a great finish. He looks like a natural goal scorer and puts himself about.

MC: Who are the Harrogate players who you believe will cause Sunderland problems during the match?

KS: Alex Pattison. He is a box-to-box midfielder who we’ve just signed this season. Pattison is a quality passer and has the ability to change the match too.

Also, Luke Armstrong and Jack Muldoon up front, who was our top scorer last season, will cause Sunderland problems.

Soccer - FA Barclays Premiership - Manchester United v Sunderland - Old Trafford
Jon Stead scored 2 goals in 37 appearances for Sunderland.
Photo by Nick Potts - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

MC: Former Sunderland striker Jon Stead retired earlier this summer after two years with Harrogate, was it evident in his play that he was an ex-Premier League player and will he a be a miss to your squad?

KS: Definitely. His knowledge and experience was invaluable to the squad. He had that bit of quality and nouse about him when he played which you don’t get much of at this level.

He was playing regularly for the club when he retired but he wasn’t in the squad at the start of the year for a while and we did miss him. Hopefully having bought two new strikers, we won’t miss him too much, but a lot of our fans would’ve liked him to have played another season.

MC: Which 11 players do you expect Simon Weaver to select and what style of play can Lee Johnson’s side expect to encounter?

KS: Oxley, Paige, Hall, Smith, Burrell, Power, Thomson, Falkingham, Pattison, Armstrong, Muldoon.

If Smith isn’t fit then McArdle will start. You can expect a quick and slick passing style. We are at our best when we get ball down, play and get it out wide. This is mixed up with some long passes from defence.

MC: Lastly, what is your honest prediction of the final score?

KS: I think it will be a tight game and we’ll make it difficult for Sunderland but your team will win 2-0 or 2-1.

Concord Rangers v Harrogate Town - 2019/20 Buildbase FA Trophy Final
Harrogate beat Concord Rangers 1-0 in May to win the FA Trophy at Wembley.
Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

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