A COMMUNITY has rallied round its football club’s long distance bid for cup glory.
Brighouse Town face a near 600-mile round trip to take on Newport FC on the Isle of Wight in the FA Vase fourth round.
Faced with a £4,000 bill for hotel accommodation, travel costs and other expenses, the club turned to the local community for help.
Shops, businesses, clubs and pubs have come the aid of the cause for a game which has lifted the local and national profile of the Northern Counties East League side.
Victory over Newport will mean a place in the last 16 – with a final at Wembley in sight.
Club chairman Ray McLaughlin said he was delighted at the response to the appeal.
The game will be played on Saturday, January 19, and so far about £700 has been pledged.
Other firms have offered goods and services for free, including Sainsbury’s which will donate a hamper packed with bananas, oranges, Jaffa Cakes and bottles of water.
“The community have been brilliant,” said Mr McLaughlin. “But it’s not just the financial support, it’s the goodwill and good wishes we have had too.
“The whole town is getting behind us.”
The board has also backed player-manager Paul Quinn in his pre-match preparations.
Quinn wants to give his players the best chance of success and has drawn up an itinerary many professional clubs would envy.
The team will make the five-hour trip to the South Coast the day before, stopping off to train at the Football Association’s state-of-the-art St George’s Park national training complex at Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
The players and officials will stay at a hotel in Southampton before making the ferry crossing to the Isle of Wight on Saturday morning.
Rather than a night-time journey home the party will return to the Southampton hotel for a second night.
Mr McLaughlin said the club also hoped to recoup some of the travel expenses from their share of the gate receipts. Newport are expecting a crowd of between 300 and 500 for the game.
“The prestige of this competition is massive,” said Mr McLaughlin.
“The prize money for beating Newport is £2,000 and once you’re in the last 16 you start thinking of Wembley.”
Brighouse and Newport play at a similar level but the competition’s strongest teams come from the North East.
“Clubs up there should play at a higher level but don’t because of the distances they would have to travel. They will always have an advantage in the Vase.”
The weather is another headache.
The Isle of Wight, like the rest of Britain, has been hit by heavy rain and competition rules say that matches can only be postponed on the day.
That would be a financial disaster for Brighouse and Mr McLaughlin is talking to the FA about whether they should travel if the game is in doubt on the Friday.
The club’s secretary Malcolm Taylor has even tried to find insurance to cover travel costs if the match is postponed – but no-one offers such a policy.
If the game is postponed it will be re-scheduled for the following weekend and Mr McLaughlin also hopes the hotel will be understanding.
“It should be a great weekend and all we can do is hope for the best with the weather,” he said.
Brighouse manager Quinn will be hoping the omens are in his favour.
He is the son of Gerry Quinn, who led the original Emley (now Wakefield) to the Vase final at Wembley in 1988. And he is the grandson of the popular and successful former Town manager, Ian Greaves.
AFC Emley, of course, are still hoping for a return to Wembley in the Vase competition. They host a Suffolk side called Hadleigh Sports.
Quinn has assembled a side which boasts a good record in the Baris Northern Counties East League Premier Division.
And in striker Tom Mathews they have a man in form.
The man who spent most of his early football career in Meltham has bagged more than 30 goals so far this season and is bang in form.