COMING back from the dead in a managerial sense like Newcastle United’s renaissance man Alan Pardew may be a bit of an overstatement when it comes to Simon Weaver’s recent turnaround at Harrogate Town.
But it has been noted all the same by many in non-league circles, with the Town chief under fire after a poor start to the Vanarama North campaign with his expensively-assembled side failing miserably to justify their status among the bookies’ favourites for promotion.
A few weeks ago, Town were out of sorts, struggling for options and in need of a lift, with just three wins on the board from their opening 13 league matches representing a meagre return.
Given the resources at his disposal compared to many fellow managers in this division, Weaver had not been immune to criticism, but in mitigation he was quick to point to Town’s horror injury list as a big reason for his side’s lacklustre opening.
But with players coming back on deck, Weaver has found an overdue ray of autumnal sunshine by way of much-needed and impressive back-to-back home wins over Brackley and Stockport County to provide welcome respite for Town, now 13th.
Weaver, whose side take a break from league duties at home to Albion Sports in the West Riding County Cup this evening, said: “You try to do the right thing and keep spirits up. But is difficult when people are being negative about you. Rightly so because we lost a few games and expectation levels are higher.
“It’s more a case of frustration levels for us, rather than being depressed at one point.
“Anyone being rational about it and who has done a little bit of research will have known how hard it has been for us being without such massive players.
“We don’t have a budget at this level to have two David McGurks or James Walshaws.
“Unfortunately for us, our pre-season plans were ripped to shreds really.
“We have had to start again really and it has been difficult. But at the end of the day, you stop trying to justify it and the important thing is that the club know how hard it has been.”
Harrogate’s recruitment in the summer turned many heads with the addition of the likes of goal predator Walshaw and experienced defender McGurk suggesting the club were here to make waves at the top after knocking about roubnd the play-off places for a few years.
But both were among a number sidelined for spells in the early part of the season, but thankfully the crowded treatment room has now cleared, with a upturn maybe no coincidence.
Weaver said: “We have had a few big players return from injury; we always knew it was going to be difficult when we set off with five out and it got gradually worse to eight.
“One Saturday, we even had nine in the treatment room. But we have all dug in and kept our heads above water and kept working hard.
“Lewis Turner is back playing for the first time in seven or eight weeks and we had to throw him in after one practice session and he was outstanding.
“Jake Speight is also coming back to fitness and bit by bit, he is getting match-fit, while on Saturday, we also managed to get a game out of Dave McGurk for the first time in four or five weeks.
“Players who are integral parts of our plans have come back. Teams at the elite level can miss one player, but we have missed the core of the team.
“Thankfully, it has been different in the past two games and we have come up against two decent teams and won and we are delighted with that.
“As long as we have three-quarters of the squad fit, we have got a chance in games.
“It is a good level and if you have a team who are not a match-fit one or somewhere near it, then you are going to struggle.
Elsewhere this evening in the second round of the county cup, Tadcaster and Thackley have home advantage against Liversedge and Pontefract Colls, while Garforth visit Armthorpe.
Goole host Bradford Park Avenue, while round three action in the Sheffield and Hallamshire Senior Cup sees Frickley host Stocksbridge Park Steels and Nostell entertain Joker. Hemsworth MW welcome Shelley.
Brighouse host Ossett Albion in Evo-Stik First Division North and in the FA Trophy, Ossett Town visit Trafford in a replay.
In the NCEL Division One, Knaresborough head to Winterton.