Club returns to World Cup host

Morpeth Town FC line up before a game during their visit to Qatar in advance of their FA Vase tie with Eastbourne United on Saturday.
Morpeth Town FC line up before a game during their visit to Qatar in advance of their FA Vase tie with Eastbourne United on Saturday.
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MORPETH Town prepared for their huge FA Vase fifth-round tie by going on another special overseas trip.

Following a successful inaugural visit in December 2012, the Highway Men went back to Qatar in order to further develop relations between the club, the Northern League and the Qatari FA leading up to the World Cup of 2022.

With the trip being sponsored by the Commercial Bank of Qatar and the club’s main sponsor Techflow Qatar, a strong squad travelled to Doha to play a friendly challenge match against Division One side Al Kharaitiyat.

They were able to train at the magnificent sports development Qatari Aspire complex, which in recent weeks had housed Real Madrid and Paris St Germain in an exhibition match. It has also hosted an Under 16 tournament featuring many of Europe’s top clubs.

There were excellent facilities too at the Intercontinental Hotel in Doha and full use was made by the squad of the gymnasium and outside playing areas.

Following three days of focused training, the Highway Men took on Al Kharaitiyat FC, led by club president Sheikh Hamad bin Thaner Al Thani, at their Doha training complex.

A good run-out was had by the whole squad, with everyone getting a game. The scores were level at half-time – Sean Taylor put Morpeth in front in the 23rd minute with a decent strike from 15 yards and the home side equalised through Samman in the 40th minute.

With both sides utilising their full squad, no further scoring took place in the second half.

Town chairman Ken Beattie said: “It was a really good preparation for the Vase game, with the weather being warm and the squad having three training sessions as well as a friendly challenge match against Qatari League One side Al Kharaityat.

“The facilities available to us were world-class and we are extremely grateful to the Aspire team of Markus Egger (director of strategic projects), Stephen Bourne (manager, planning and quality management) and Feras Btaddini (head of logistics) for giving our squad access to a complex that is normally only available to teams such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain, Manchester United and Manchester City.”

Morpeth will set off for Eastbourne at noon on Friday and the game the following day is for a place in the quarter-finals of the FA Vase competition. The club will, however, be watching the weather forecast very closely during this week as Eastbourne United’s last four home matches have been postponed.

The home side are top of Sussex County Football League Division Two, but Town manager Nick Gray is confident ahead of the tie.

He said: “We know that we are in for a hard match down at Eastbourne, but we will be up for the challenge.

“We have come a long way in the competition and have beaten some good sides. The best of which was from our own league – Penrith – who we defeated 2-1 away from home.”

Mr Beattie added that the only game to compare with the match on Saturday in terms of importance is the FA Cup fourth qualifying round fixture at home to Burton Albion in 1998, which Morpeth narrowly lost 1-0.

Meanwhile, the club has received a good-luck message from Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery, also chairman of Ashington CFC.

He said: “Ken Beattie has been at the heart of Morpeth Town for longer than I care to remember, with plenty of success in that time, and I sincerely hope he can add to the good times he has already enjoyed at the club, including promotion back to Division One of the Northern League last season, with a good result on Saturday.”