Nailers on tour – how Step 4 non-league club Belper Town ended up on an ‘overseas’ pre-season trip

Action from Belper Town's game against Portadown (Pic: David McGuiness)
Action from Belper Town's game against Portadown (Pic: David McGuiness)

Belper Town bucked the pre-season bonding trend this year, swapping the traditional day at the races for an overseas tour.

The Nailers headed across the pond – the Irish Sea, not the Atlantic – to take on Northern Irish outfit Portadown.

Boss Grant Black has been on many team bonding sessions in his time, but this one ranks among the best.

The trip came about thanks to Belper chairman Ian Woodward’s family history in Ulster, on his mother’s side.

“Our chairman has got some kind of ancestry over that way and he’s visited over many years and from going to football games, created a bit of a relationship with Portadown,” said Black.

“He’s asked if they’d be interested in being affiliated to Belper and they’ve struck up a bit of a partnership.

“We arranged to go over and play a pre-season game.”

At Step 4 of the non-league pyramid, the best you might hope for in terms of summer friendlies is a visit from your neighbouring Football League club.

So the weekend away was something Grant used to pique the interest of prospective signings.

“At this standard of football it’s very rare you get to go on a pre-season tour,” he said.

“It was a carrot we could dangle to players we tried to bring in this year, to show that we’re trying to do things professionally.

“The lads that went absolutely loved it. It was a really good weekend.”

Belper, beaten 3-1 at Shamrock Park, returned home with a stronger bond and a feeling of readiness for the 2019/20 season.

Black said: “You have a night out before the season starts as a new group, but we had a full weekend together.

“We met at 8am Friday and didn’t get to our hotel until 8pm, so we definitely bonded on ferries and buses.

“The game was the most important part of the weekend, we did really well.

“Then we had a night out together in Belfast.

“It was one of the best bonding trips I’ve been on.

“We’re raring to go now, we can’t wait for the first game to come.”