Longest-Serving Manager Simon Weaver On Harrogate Town And Working With His Dad

13 years later, Weaver is still at the helm of Harrogate
17:00, 03 Oct 2022

In May 2009, the world was a very different place. Labour’s Gordon Brown was the prime minister, Tinchy Stryder and N-Dubz were top of the charts and Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United were about to take on Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in the Champions League final. 

But one thing that has remained constant in this ever-changing world has been Simon Weaver at Harrogate Town. He walked through the doors of the Yorkshire club to take his first managerial job when Jude Bellingham was just six-years-old, and 13 years later he is the longest-serving manager in English football. 

But despite two promotions, two Wembley visits and leading Harrogate to the Football League, Weaver isn’t immune to criticism. The main jibe comes from the fact that his dad is the current chairman, having invested in the club back in 2011. 

“Well, it's water off a duck's back,” Weaver tells The Sportsman on our visit. “Now, after so long, I think you just get immune to it after so many shouts. But I think I can honestly look in the mirror each night and say that I work hard. 

“I think my dad as a chairman does. I can lean into his experience of managing people. After 52 years of being owner of a building company, and that was a family business as well. So my brother is now in charge of what he started as a building company. And as he supported one son, he felt it necessary to give me a chance in my hour of need as well when the club was on its uppers. 


“But we've worked hard really to silence the critics by progressing the club off the pitch, primarily. And then secondary to that, as we grew it, the infrastructure was better, and facilities were better at the ground. We wanted a better team to play entertaining football and to progress through the leagues, which is what's happened and it's been a slow process at times, but one that we're proud of.”

Former chairman Bill Fotherby turned to Weaver after two years in charge and asked if his dad would be interested in buying the club, otherwise Harrogate would be forced to resign two levels. Despite his scepticism, his house-building father rescued Town and they embarked on a mission to rebuild the club, brick by brick. But after 11 years working together, how does Simon think his relationship with his dad has developed? 

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“We’ve probably got closer,” he explains at Harrogate’s training ground. “I'm lucky to have that relationship and I know he feels the same to be honest. Despite the fact that at Harrogate Town we're going to lose some games, we've worked through some hard times. When you see greater numbers come through the turnstiles and where we are actually as a Football League club in our third year, it's a far cry from where we were in the first instance and so we're proud of that. I think the bond of working through things has definitely forged an even closer relationship.”

The duo have been on quite the journey with the Sulphurites, taking them from the sixth tier to the Football League for the first time in the club’s history. But in the modern results-based world of the managerial merry-go-round that has seen Watford employ their 18th gaffer in that same time period, have the father-son duo considered what happens when it is time to part ways?

“We discussed it in the first few months and said look if it doesn't work out let's make sure that we don't ruin the club,” the 44-year-old says as the Yorkshire weather takes a turn. “Before larger amounts were spent on a playing squad it had to be about improving the infrastructure and we needed rooves around the stadium and proper seats to sit on. Turnstiles that worked, clickers that worked. I mean, I could have a whole host of things that you need to throw at you to explain that things weren't working. So we needed to improve the reputation within the local area first. 

“But he said to me a while ago that he is glad that he's never really had to think about it like most chairmen do, because of the big turnaround in managers up and down the levels. He's been happy with the progress and some would ask that question. But some would ask the question, well, with two promotions have you had to chat about if I left? I prefer to look at it in a positive mindset.”

Weaver is certainly a manager who has caught the eye of several EFL clubs due to his work at Harrogate. Two promotions and the work he has done on and off the pitch has clearly attracted attention, but despite this, with a young family in the area, he remains committed to the club and the local community. 

“Well, I wouldn't mention the clubs but there've been a couple of opportunities [to move] in recent seasons. I wouldn't let them down or myself down by mentioning it now in terms of whereabouts, but I just think that there's untapped potential until we've squeezed as much juice out of the lemon as possible in this area, then I feel that we can grow and grow. 

“I've also got responsibilities and staff I’ve brought in, you know, and looking after them and making sure that we've reached the potential of what I believe and they believe is possible here.

"It's been nice to receive a call and say we've all done a decent job. It's flattering, but looking at the responsibilities here... It would have to be some kind of game changer in terms of my life to think that actually, it's a better bet than what I've got at Harrogate. And it's not all about stability, you know, life is for living, isn't it? Making sure that you've got no regrets.”

So after 13 years at the club and with such a close relationship to his dad the chairman, how does the Simon Weaver and Harrogate Town love story end?

“If there's a time where we think, actually, we've hit a level where the circumstances as in the financial constraints, or we're not evolving and growing, or as popular as what we thought we may be, and the revenue streams just plateau to the extent where we can't bring competitive players in and we have backward momentum, then we're not really interested in building such a huge deficit that is just an improbable and almost impossible job. 

“It's got to work at the end of the day, but we're a long way from that. And equally, if we are successful and we go again and we're all energised by it and there's an opportunity for myself, then it might be the right time to pass the baton on to someone. But, I'm excited by the challenge ahead here and I've tended just to work, week after week trying to build up momentum.”

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