COME on down – the price is right
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John Price of Ginger Village pubs, is offering fellow fans, who are members of the Darlington FC Supporters Group, a 20 per cent discount on food at the company’s four pubs on production of their membership card.
The Mowden in Darlington (where the supporters group hold their regular meetings), The Devonport at Middleton One Row, the Sir Thomas Brown at Eaglescliffe and the Village Inn at Northallerton (Quakers general manager Dave Watson is a regular), are the places to head for keen Quakers to enjoy quality fare at a special price.
John, who has clocked up just over a quarter of a century as a Darlington fan, travels home and away whenever his business commitments allow.
But, while as a supporter he is one of the many who have stayed loyal to the club, as a businessman he is one of the few – but not, he hopes, for long.
“It would be great if other businesses supported the fans and the club,” he said. “The idea of being a community run club is that everybody puts a little bit in. That’s the only way it can work.”
“The incentive for businesses is that they are helping the club, while increasing their customer base. It’s mutually beneficial.”
There are all sorts of ways in which businesses in the town and surrounding area can chip in and feel part of the Quakers’ revival. Advertising, sponsorship, and the sort of discount scheme that Ginger Village offer are all welcome.
John feels that in future more clubs will operate in the community-based model rather than rely on individual wealthy backers.
“We are not the first club to have this model, and we have learned from others and I feel we have got it right, with a great bond between the fans and the players.”
“More clubs will do what we have done, and maybe we will be ahead of the game. But we have to make sure that as many people as possible contribute.”
In some respects the club has come full circle since John became a Feethams regular.
“I was 10 or 11 years old and able to go to games with my mates, and didn’t need an adult with us. It was in the Conference and Fourth Division title years under Brian Little.”
“Like now, the team was winning a lot more games than it lost. But there has been a big gap of unsuccessful seasons in between then and now.”
Marco Gabbiadini was John’s favourite player, and he fondly remembers those two sensational seasons when the former Sunderland man banged in a total of over 50 goals.
But the current team and the string of promotions makes for some of the happiest times John has had following the Quakers.
“While it would be good to see a return to the Football League, we have to enjoy the journey. It’s great fun at the moment, visiting some of the smaller grounds and mixing with opposition fans with everybody wishing each other well.”
“That feel-good factor was missing towards the end of our Football League and Conference days before we became a community club.”
“We have a great spirit now, a bit like at the Olympic Games. I enjoyed watching the games on television even though there was live Premier League football on another channel.”
“Darlington is like that now. We have an Olympic-type spirit which is missing from the higher levels of football.”
“That is down to our great fan base, far bigger than other clubs at our level. When we are at away games now, sometimes outnumbering home fans, it reminds me of the days when the likes of Carlisle and Preston came to Feethams or the Arena and seemed to take over.”
John was so delighted when Quakers won promotion last season, that after the big win at Whitby he offered the players a free meal.
“I don’t know if anyone took me up on it, but ironically at that time Adam Reed and Neil Maddison came into the Devonport for Sunday lunch,” he said.
While former players are part of the rich history of the club, it is the present and future that is now so exciting.
And if enough businesses pledge their support like Ginger Village is doing then the club can forge ahead and everyone’s a winner.
DFCSG Chair Wayne Raper added, “The link up with Ginger Village is mutually beneficial for both parties concerned and the discount is another great reason to sign-up as a member of the Supporters Group. If you’ve not yet joined or renewed you can do so online at www.darlingtonfcsupportersgroup.org, at the fans table before a home game at Heritage Park, or at Quaker Retail.”
* DFCSG Membership cards will be available for collection from Saturday 27th August at Heritage Park and then either from Quaker Retail on a weekday between 10am and 1pm as well as all future home games.