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Promotion puts us back on map, says Bradford Park Avenue chief Hainsworth as young and old join celebrations
A lifelong supporter of the club, it was an emotional and humbling experience for Avenue director Kevin Hainsworth to see the club finally gain promotion to the Blue Square Bet North and he expects it to raise the club’s profile.
Hainsworth said: “I have been a fan all my life and it was nice to see a lot of people my age and above, who remembered Avenue in the Football League, celebrating after the win over FC United. A lot of them were on the pitch at the end with tears in their eyes.
“Since we reformed we have had an older level of support but it was great to see a lot of younger people at the play-off final and they have been getting on board more and more recently. A lot of them were asking about season tickets for next year.”
The Bradford fans mobbed scorer Tom Greaves when he netted the winner deep into extra-time and had to be ushered back into the stands by the army of stewards. At the final whistle they swarmed back out to celebrate with their heroes.
FC United’s supporters were also on the pitch and even though they lost it was all very good natured and they too were congratulating their own players on taking the promotion race all the way.
Hainsworth added: “I have to say that 99.9 per cent of the FC United fans are phenomenal and they love their football.
“It has been a pleasure sharing the last few seasons in the same division and I hope we stay up because I’m sure the Manchester side will be joining us soon.
“They made it a great atmosphere and quite a lot of them were saying we deserved it because we were the better side on the day. That’s fantastic and it’s what you get at this level because it’s not as partisan as the Football League. You get good banter before and during the games but all the fans share a pint and chat afterwards.”
Avenue were founder members of the Conference North, which is now the Blue Square Bet North thanks to the sponsorship of the online betting company. Hainsworth remembers that brief sojourn, and so will Greaves.
“It couldn’t have been anybody better than Greavesy to score the goal that put us up,” said the club director.
“I remember him coming through as an 18-year-old and that was in the Conference North under Carl Shutt. We got relegated and he left us shortly after Shutty did and played for a few other clubs but things have come full circle and I’m glad for Tom because he is a Bradford lad.
“It hasn’t been easy and it has taken a lot of hard work and finance (gaining promotion following a third play-off campaign on the spin) but it has been worth it. One of the criticisms we have had is that not a lot of people know that Avenue are still around. That has all changed now.”