Football fans to walk on in fundraising 40-mile trek

A GROUP of Ashton United supporters is preparing to tackle a mammoth challenge in a bid raise funds for Ashton United in the Community.

Ahead of the Robins’ league fixture at Matlock Town on Saturday, March 2, members of the supporters’ club will be lacing up their walking boots and covering 40 miles from Hurst Cross to the Gladiators’ Proctor Cars Stadium over a two-day period.

It is hoped that their efforts will raise £1,000 to give the outreach programme a much-needed boost, supporting several initiatives including the weekly food pantry, training courses, qualification opportunities and a midweek Luncheon Club for pensioners.

Ashton United in the community

The forthcoming challenge is one of many initiatives spearheaded by the supporters’ club to help those in need.

As The Correspondent reported in December, members took it upon themselves to rally round and coordinate the annual Christmas Toy Appeal at Tameside Hospital, using funds that were previously allocated for a Christmas party to cover the costs of presents for those in need.

Members taking part in the challenge will be hoping that their efforts are rewarded with victory in Derbyshire, as Steve Cunningham’s side look to maintain their charge towards the Northern Premier League Premier Division play-offs.

And there are certainly grounds for optimism as the Robins have impressed on the pitch in league competition this season.

Not to mention their exploits in the Manchester Premier Cup, which saw them beat Trafford 4-2 in the semi-final to secure a final tie against Avro.

Although it might not have the glitz and glamour of the FA Cup or FA Trophy, the competition is highly valued by the club and one they will be looking to win – just as they did in 2022 with a 1-0 victory against Hyde United.

Speaking to The Correspondent about the challenge, supporters’ club chairman Luke Sayle said: “We completed a similar challenge around three years ago, when we walked from Hurst Cross to Stalybridge Celtic to raise funds for a van.

“That challenge was driven by our volunteer and supporter, Patrick Finnegan, who has cerebral palsy, and that was a big achievement for him.

“We originally planned on walking to Morpeth, but the chairman talked me out of that as the distance was too big – it feels long in a car, let alone walking!

“Matlock seemed like a decent option, so we’ve contacted a hotel in Bakewell and eight members will complete 30 miles on Friday morning, rest up overnight, and will then be joined by 16 further members to complete the final 10 miles to Matlock on Saturday morning.

“There is a disused railway line that goes from Bakewell to Matlock. It’s a flat route with no traffic, so that will make it a little easier to complete.

“We’re not too sure on the route we’ll be taking to head to Bakewell – that’s dependent on the weather as one of the routes can become a little bit treacherous if it has been raining a lot – but we’ll complete it either way and hopefully raise £1,000 to continue our work in the area.”

Walking 40 miles is no easy feat, regardless of age, experience, or fitness levels.

Thankfully, Luke has previous experience of completing long-distance challenges as he trekked from Sheffield United to Oldham Athletic during his days supporting the Latics.

And despite his lack of specific fitness training for the forthcoming walk, he has clocked up no less than 350 kilometres during the previous 12 months while working on the Hurst Cross pitch – many of which have come in recent weeks amid a testing period weather-wise.

He added: “The pitch has taken a real battering during the previous two games and without the efforts of the volunteers to get the games on, we would be looking at two postponed fixtures which need replaying at a later date.

“It was essential we got the games on as we don’t want a backlog of fixtures. Thankfully, the efforts weren’t in vain as we claimed a point against Guiseley in the league and progressed to the cup final.

“We’ve got the record of the most appearances in the final. Of the 22 previous finals we’ve competed in, 16 have been victories so we definitely want to add to that tally this season.

“When I last spoke to the Manchester FA, they had no confirmation as to where the final will be played, but we’re looking forward to it regardless.”

You can donate to the supporters’ club charity walk via the following link:

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