AFTER three long weeks, the time has finally arrived for Hastings United to pull up their socks and take on the biggest challenge of their lives.
Playing in front of a crowd of up to 15,000, Sean Ray’s battle-hardened troops take to the pitch of the Riverside stadium already as heroes.
Having cemented their position in Pilot Field folklore, the squad will today set off on an unforgettable trip to the North East.
Our team will bring you the best coverage of the big day out.
Sports reporters Simon Newstead and Derren Howard, chief news reporter Sol Buckner and chief photographer Justin Lycett will be following the fans and the football every step of the way.
Sol, who will be Tweeting all the way from Coach D, has been sampling the build up to the big day out.
NOT since the days of John Logie Baird’s first TV trials, has the population of Hastings been so excited about being on television.
But the euphoria created by the epic victory over Harrogate Town live on ESPN last month set tongues wagging from Bexhill to Battle and St Leonards to Camber Sands.
Tomorrow, a Maroon army of up to 1,000 fans will make the 800 mile round trip to the Teeside to witness another
chapter in the colourful history of the club.
Messages of “Good luck Boys” have been flying into the Observer as they prepare to take on the might
of Tony Mowbray’s high-flying Championship side.
Tickets for the game have been selling like hot cakes since before Christmas making the ideal festive present for many. More than 700 have been snapped up.
Dozens of fans are expected to be on board the replacement bus service to Ashford to catch the express service
up to the North East in time for the game.
The replacement service is running between Hastings and Ashford all weekend because of engineering work on the line.
Club vice-president Clive Galbraith, who is one of those travelling by train, said: “A lot of people who don’t ordinarily go to United matches are going.
“If we could just get a few more to come along on a Saturday to the pilot field it would make a big difference.
“These lads have had a big impact with the youngsters in our town.
“They can see that ordinary lads can make a name for themselves and be on TV beamed around the world.
“Now they are going to play at a stadium the size of Middlesbrough and a chance to take on some of the best players in the game.
“And I reckon a lot of the team have been saving themselves for the big day. They didn’t want to get injured in the run up to the big game.
“And I am still predicting a 0-1 smash and grab win for us.”
Mayor Alan Roberts wrote to Hastings United earlier this week to show his support.
He wrote: “The whole town is behind the team and will be watching with great excitement and anticipation.
“I wish them the best of luck, for a great match on Saturday.”