Since November 1950, fans of this renowned local football team have enjoyed action-filled matches, played not for money, but out of love for ‘the beautiful game’.
It’s a feeling of excitement and a sense of passion many fans find lacking in top league matches. And, for Gornal Athletic Football Club’s new chairman Mat Danks, it’s the reason he returned to the team’s Garden Walk ground after an absence of several years.
“When I was a reporter for the Dudley News, I’d regularly attend matches to report on Gornal AFC,” he explains, “but, after leaving the newspaper to run my PR company, I tended to go and see bigger teams such as West Brom instead.
“However,” he continues, “I eventually fell out of love with top league football. Because of all the money involved, going to see a match has become a bit like going to the cinema – people’s expectations are much higher and they demand to be entertained.”
So, disillusioned with big name matches, Mat decided to go and take another look at his local team, Gornal AFC. And, it was a decision that led to some surprising developments.
“I began getting involved with the club and, before I knew it, was asked if I’d like to become chairman,” he explains. “They’d already got a great set of people and a fantastic manager, former Gornal striker Ian Rowe. I think they just needed someone with a business brain to build on this already excellent team.”
It’s a partnership that certainly seems to be paying off – this Saturday sees Gornal play Shifnal Town FC in the FA Cup preliminary round.
“We’ve got exceptional players and a strong squad,” says Mat. “Only one team goes up and we want to be that team.”
Saturday’s match promises to be a thrilling one but, according to Mat, fans can always expect plenty of action at any Gornal game.
He says: “You’re watching blokes who play for the love of the game. Although local, non-league clubs don’t enjoy the financial rewards of bigger teams, that doesn’t mean the excitement on the pitch is any less. In fact, very rarely will you see as much action as during one of our matches.”
Mat’s enthusiasm is infectious – something borne out by the way Gornal AFC is now attracting more and more fans through the club’s active use of social networking site Twitter.
“Social media is really helping us build bridges with teams all over the country,” he explains. “Using Twitter, we’ve developed links with Glaswegian Saturday morning side Tally Vic, for example. It’s opening doors and helping us connect with many new fans.”
And among Gornal’s ever-growing legion of supporters are the lads from Sedgley indie rock band, The Lines, who can also count Mat as one of their biggest fans.
He says: “I’ve seen them play about 50 times, all over the UK and abroad. They’re a superb band, a top bunch of lads and it’s great to know they support our team.”
Join the ranks of Gornal AFC’s many supporters for the all-important FA Cup match this Saturday, August 20. Kick-off is at 3pm.
Visit the club’s website for more information.