Sunderland and Newcastle United fans urged to spend international weekend supporting Non-League Day
With the Tyne-Wear rivals putting their feet up during the international break this Saturday, the North East’s minnows are looking for a “massive” boost in numbers through their turnstiles.
And the message from non-league is that the grassroots game can offer the feel-good factor often missing in the full-time professional game.
Ahead of Morpeth Town’s Northern Premier League home game against Basford United on Saturday, manager Nick Gray promises no lack of attacking football at Craik Park.
“There’s passion on the pitch, in the stands and on the touchline, there’s passion everywhere!” said Gray, whose side sit 14th after promotion from Northern Premier League Division One East last season.
“It’s great value for money, you see some great football and it’s always unpredictable.”
Basford are second top of the table – albeit having played five more games than Morpeth.
And Gray added: “It’ll be a tough game, like every game in this league.
“But we’ve got a good home record, our crowds are on the up due to the level we’re playing at and the brand of football we play, so we want to continue that trend and hopefully get another three points on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland RCA manager Martin Swales expecting an increased crowd of between 150 and 200 when they host Whitley Bay in Northern League Division One on Saturday.
“It (Non-League Day) is very important for getting people through the door and helping generate revenue for the club,” Swales said.
“Fortunately, we have a good rapport with Sunderland, who give us players on loan which helps our team massively.
“It is massive for the area to get people through the gate. When fans of Sunderland come it helps us and supports grassroots football.
“Whitley Bay are always well supported so I’d expect a crowd of maybe 150-200 for the game on Saturday.
“Our attendance depends on who we are playing, the weather and if Sunderland are playing at home or away that weekend. So with Sunderland not playing on Non-League Day, it helps us.”
Sports journalist Mark Carruthers, who covers North East non-league football for the Gazette, Sunderland Echo and Hartlepool Mail said: “Non-League Day is very important to clubs around the country.
“We are blessed in the North East that we have some of the most famous non-league clubs in the country.
“You look at the historic clubs that we’ve got, the likes of Crook Town and Bishop Auckland, Blyth Spartans.
“We also have clubs like Stockton Town and Hebburn Town, who are on the up. It’s a very exciting time for the region’s non-league scene.
“So probably more so than ever it’s important that people capitalise on Non-League Day and try and get supporters from Newcastle United, Sunderland or Middlesbrough down to watch games and just showcase what the club is about, what the non-league scene is about and how exciting things are at the moment.
“Newcastle and Sunderland aren’t at home every week.
“So on your Saturdays that your team are away, rather than sitting in front of Jeff Stelling or whoever, then why don’t you watch a local game and enjoy the environment, the inclusivity and just really relish something that’s a bit different from the corporate nature at the top end of the game?”