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ALL WELLED UP! Andy Viggars opens up about his love for Hemsworth!

It’s always comforting when you think you’re mad but you find somebody else even crazier! This afternoon I feel comforted after chatting with fellow Wells fan and player’s dad, Andy Viggars. I’ve made some crazy journeys north of the border to watch my friends play in matches from Berwick to Ross County. I had the luxury of a car; Mr. V. prefers to travel under his own steam, as we will shortly discover, writes Ellie Dalglish. 

Andy begins his soliloquy by telling us how he came to be at Hemsworth Miners Welfare in the first place – and why they are re not likely to get rid of him in a hurry!

“I had a season ticket at Featherstone Rovers and when the Super League evolved, I decided that watching that kind of sport in the summer was not for me. I started to go and watch Frickley Athletic with a mate of mine who was always on about the Blues and how good they were. Harry was playing football at the same time for Ackworth Juniors. When he outgrew the Charles Rice System, which only went up to the age of 16, he went for a trial at Ponte but it didn’t work out. They signed him but he never played because, shortly after they signed him, he came to Hemsworth with the Under-19s and he’s never looked back.”

“It was a chap called Daryl Bowman who chucked him into the first team and he was nothing spectacular to start with but flourished particularly alongside Chicker, Harty and obviously Benno [Andy Hayward, Andy Hart and Wayne Benn]. It was through Harry I came to watch Hemsworth. I’d always liked my Saturday afternoon sport, whether it be amateur rugby league in place of professional rugby league or non-league football.”

“I have no association with any particular football club at all. I don’t particularly like professional football at any level. I don’t like what it represents, how the fans are treated and how people get forgotten. I have a bit of a soft spot for Barnsley, as Harry was associated with them for five years. We did go [to matches] because he got a player’s pass and a parent’s pass so we went to many home games and some away games but if Barnsley win, lose or draw, I’m not really bothered.”

“It’s non-league for me and has been since I first went to watch Frickley, probably twenty years ago. When Harry came to the Wells there was only one other place I was going to be because I’d coached Harry myself as a coach of the junior team at Ackworth.”

“We [Ackworth Juniors] were remarkably successful. One year we went unbeaten throughout the League and won the treble: we won the League Trophy, the Invitation Trophy and League Cup. We scored 100 goals, never beaten and I don’t think that’s a record at Ackworth Juniors that has ever been equalled.”

“So, it was always going to be non-league football for me and I just enjoy it so much because it’s not so much about the game. Up until three o’clock Harry’s obviously my son, then I detach myself from that for ninety minutes and I just see him as a Wells player. That’s why I don’t get over-animated if something happens like it did last Saturday when he was sent off. To me that’s a Wells player. I try to detach myself from that and I seem to do that quite well because I’m quite reserved when it comes to being vocal.”

“I’m immensely proud of what Harry does but, to me on a Saturday afternoon, he’s a Wells player first and my son second!”

“I don’t like to miss Saturdays, from July and pre-season, they are a big part of me. I love going to the games but I like to make my own way there when I can. Sometimes it’s the only way I can get there, under my own steam. I do have access to a car now, which I take occasionally, but the most memorable occasions that stick in my mind are the ones where I’ve made my own way there by bus, train, taxi…”

“I can even remember coming back from my holiday on the Isle of Wight on the Tuesday of August Bank Holiday. I was in Ryde on the Isle of Wight at eight o’clock in the morning and, twelve hours later, I was at Barton, watching the lads. That involved a trip of a train, a taxi, a catamaran, two more trains, a bus and a car to get to the game, which I’m foolishly proud of!”

“Then there was the infamous trip to Pickering, which was twelve hours on a Tuesday in November! I left Monkhill station at seven o’clock in the morning and I got to Pickering Town at a quarter past seven in the evening! That was via two hours in Scarborough and two hours in Whitby, which was a trip I enjoyed immensely!”

Harry whilst playing against Bottesford Town. Credit: Rob Barraclough.

“I’m quite proud that I do make the effort, although it’s a bit of a joke at the club but so be it! It’s something I do because I enjoy it!”

“And obviously it’s not just the football… You’re tired of players saying they’re a great set of lads. Now I don’t know what a great set of lads are other than the lads at the Wells. I’ve made some friends there that will be friends for life, whatever happens. If Harry chooses to leave, which he might do, then I’d obviously go and watch him but there would be only one place I would rather be on the days that he’s not playing and that would be watching the Wells.”

“There are people that I see outside the football whom I do regard as friends now. It’s a special place. I’m sure other clubs are special places but I’ve never experienced it so I can’t say but any other club would be hard pressed to do what the Wells did for me, especially around the time of when my father died [two years ago]. That is something I think about very often, if not daily. They were so respectful. There were some very, very kind and loving things said and gestures made, that will stick with me until my dying day and will stick with Harry. Small things – nothing grandiose, nothing fantastic – but little things that meant a lot to me, to Harry and to the rest of my family.”

“My father died on the Saturday evening and I rang Benno on the Sunday night – I’d texted him and told him – and Benno said to me: “Harry Viggars will be the first name on my sheet on Tuesday. Tell him from me he plays!” Benno said that he’d been through tough times himself and found football a fantastic distraction. The minutes’ applause they gave for my dad was extremely difficult for both me and for Harry. It’s something I think about a hell of a lot. Every time I go to a ground I think about my dad because he came to every game with me.”

“We are small in numbers but for me, for now, while ever Harry’s there, it will be the Wells and it would take a lot for him to leave. It will not be a money move, I can guarantee you that! There are players who are out there who have left and who will be back. That’s how that club is.”

“There’s some sort of magnetism about that place.”

This article is dedicated to the memory of Dave Viggars, a true Wells fan.

And if that hasn’t got me Welled up, nothing will! A huge thank you to Andy for his candid and entertaining interview.

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