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National League play-off final 13:06 - Aug 2 with 29 viewsBringBackTheRedRoom

Harrogate Town v Notts County

One of the world's oldest football clubs heads to Wembley on Sunday looking to return from the lowest point in their 158-year history.

There, at what will be a near-deserted national stadium in the midst of a pandemic, they face an ambitious club from a Yorkshire spa town that is looking to reach new heights.

For Harrogate Town, winning the National League promotion final will complete their ascension to the English Football League.

As for Notts County - whose identity as the oldest Football League club was taken from them when relegated at the end of a financially-fraught 2018-19 season - it would mark their restoration.

Harrogate striker Jon Stead, who spent four seasons with Notts before joining the Sulphurites last summer, sums it up best when he says "they are very different clubs".

"It is a very different environment to Notts County," the hugely experienced 37-year-old said of Harrogate.

"The rich history and everything that comes with Notts County builds it up to be a real big, solid club, whereas Harrogate Town - and I don't mean anything negative in saying this - is a small family-run club.

"Everyone does two or three jobs. We have a small staff, a goalkeeper coach, a manager and assistant manager and that is pretty much us. Everyone has to muck in, the lads have to help with doing the changing rooms and that sort of stuff."

'A real fairytale journey'

It was only four years ago that Harrogate went professional. Notts, by contrast, were at the advent of professionalism in the Victorian era.

Three decades ago, when Notts County last played in England's top flight, Harrogate were playing in the eighth tier.

Just three seasons ago they won promotion via the play-offs to the National League and are now challenging a club that spent 130 years in the Football League for a spot in League Two.

"It is a real fairytale journey," Stead told BBC East Midlands Today.

"There is just a really good togetherness about it and a group of lads who are desperate to go and better themselves.

"A lot haven't played in the Football League before and they are desperate to prove themselves and take it that one step further because it is only three, maybe four, seasons ago that they were part-time and still working alongside playing."

When the regular season was curtailed and Harrogate finished second in the table on a points-per-game basis in June, it was the highest position the club had ever reached.

Notts were one spot behind in third, which is the lowest they have ever placed in the English football pyramid.

"For a club like us, at the minute every week we are making history," said Stead.

"We got to second in the league, the highest we have finished in the club's history, and then we went one step further to book a trip to Wembley - which is also a first. I'm hoping that trend will continue one more time."

'Lows help Notts enjoy highs'

It is in North Yorkshire - playing for his 12th club in a career spanning 18 years, which has taken in England's top five divisions - that Stead has finally found his way to Wembley for the first time.

A career ambition will be realised against a club that he also wants to see succeed, having suffered relegation with Notts last season in a campaign complicated by dire financial problems at Meadow Lane.

The Magpies, who were taken over by brothers Alexander and Christoffer Reedtz a little over a year ago and since found much needed stability under the Danes, head to Wembley for the first time since losing their play-off final to Bradford City trying to reach the second tier in 1996.

"I wish them every success in the world, but on Sunday afternoon I have to look after the badge that is on my chest," said Stead.

Notts boss Neil Ardley said the heartbreak of relegation in 2019 and the troublesome circumstances surrounding it add to the occasion on Sunday.

"There is no future in looking backward," he told BBC Radio Nottingham. "We have been through it, we talk about it.

"The lows that we have experienced should help us to enjoy the highs that little bit more. And certainly the high of going to Wembley and having fans biting their nails in a good way is great.

"We will just try to enjoy the fact we are there now and focus on where we can take the club."

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/53578917

‘Where there is harmony, may we bring discord. Where there is truth, may we bring error. Where there is faith, may we bring doubt. And where there is hope, may we bring despair’

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National League play-off final on 17:03 - Aug 2 with 19 viewsBringBackTheRedRoom

Harrogate 3-1 Notts County

‘Where there is harmony, may we bring discord. Where there is truth, may we bring error. Where there is faith, may we bring doubt. And where there is hope, may we bring despair’

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National League play-off final on 19:15 - Aug 2 with 12 viewsspell_chekker

Ahhh.

That's a nice story.

I'm happy for Harrogate.

A shame for Notts County though. A founder member of the football league who been effed about from pillar to post, from all angles, for I don't know how long.

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