Leek plot FA Cup upset live on BBC

Leek Town stalwart Ken Ashford believes the club are well placed to capitalise on national exposure as they seek an upset against South Shields in a televised FA Cup tie.

Ashford began following the Blues in the 1996/97 season and quickly joined the volunteering ranks at Harrison Park, predominantly as kitman – leading to his moniker as ‘Kitman Ken’.

The 68-year-old stepped back from that role in 2020 but remains heavily involved in goings on at the Pitching In Northern Premier League outfit, organising walking football sessions and helping with general administration.

He picked up the club’s Chris Hermiston Volunteer Award last season and is looking forward to being part of a bumper crowd when the BBC cameras pitch up on Saturday.

“We are expecting well over 1,000 through the gate and it’s a thrill for us to be on television,” he said.

“It’s a bit more work to get things ready and make sure everything is correct but it’s exciting. It’s a big platform for us to advertise ourselves so the more things we can get right, the better for us.

“We are a family club, a lot of the volunteers have been here for a number of years, myself included, and the chairman [Jon Eeles] is longstanding. Days like this are what you work for.”

Ashford, who combined his role looking after the kit with physio responsibilities for several years, is one of countless volunteers who play integral roles at non-league clubs across the country, with opportunities to get involved now available through the Pitching In Volunteer Hub.

Some of his best Town memories have stemmed from FA Cup ties but they are yet to progress beyond the qualifying rounds in his time as a supporter, despite some near-misses.

“We have been to the fourth qualifying round several times and not got any further, so we know the frustrations of that,” he said.

“We lost a replay against Halifax, and we’ve also been beaten by Burton Albion and Blyth Spartans.

“Against Blyth, we were 2-0 up at half-time, went 4-2 down, brought it back to 4-3 with a penalty and missed a last-minute penalty for a replay.

“It was one of the most disappointing yet exciting games I’ve seen, with all the ebb and flow you’d want from an FA Cup game.

“This season, we have a good, solid team all the way through and if we play to our potential, we have a real chance.
“On a personal note, it’s great to be involved in the dressing room. When you weren’t good enough as a player to be at that level, to be in the dressing room with players and coaches who respect what you’re doing is special, especially when you’re getting on a bit like me!”

Find volunteering opportunities at your local club by visiting https://pitchinginvolunteers.co.uk/

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