I was right
I remember saying at the members’ meeting prior to the start of the season that I thought I had enough quality, desire and team spirit within the squad to mount another promotion challenge this term – it has been nice that the lads have proved me right.
I wonder how many of you thought my prediction was way off the mark after the early exit in the FA Cup and then that awful night away at Thamesmead, when I felt as low as I have done in my time at the club.
That actually was a turning point in my eyes. We hadn’t been playing badly until that point, but that defeat meant we were sitting with just two wins and nine points from seven matches.
The players were given a bit of a kick up the backside, and from that point on they have been an absolute credit to the club.
The continuity of having a settled squad came to the fore. I only added Noel Imber (in late September), Neil Johnston (on loan), Tyler Campbell in late February and Danny Barber with eight matches to go, losing only Joe Stevens and Johnny Moore either side of Christmas to the land of Oz and Daniel Ailey to Brentwood in March.
Every member of the squad has had a major impact at some point in helping us achieve promotion with the main core being Noel, Jordan Lockie, Jey Siva, Mark Kirby, Craig McKay, Dave Kendall, Rudi Hall, Dean Pennant, Michael Ewang, Walid Matata, Liam Hope, Leon Osei and Adam Wallace (who only failed to start one league match this term).
But the recent signings and Lee Allen, Dan Forward and Phil Kane (who all have had injury-hit seasons) were also involved, and finally Bryan Hammatt came in and offered all his experience for the run-in.
I couldn’t fail to mention the contribution of a couple of others who left the club early on in Rob and Stuart Blackburne. Mooro, Stevens and Ailey also played their part.
Spare a thought for Michael Bardle, who has had his season virtually written off by two serious injuries, while Matt Davis has been our number two goalkeeper all season to Rob and Noel and hasn’t moaned once about a lack of games.
Lads, you have all been superb.
Our form over the last 35 games was remarkable, and in any other campaign would probably have seen us win the league (so hats off to Leiston).
To be fair, going up through the plays-offs is a better feeling – however it is not good for the nerves.
The extra-time performance in the semi-final against Grays, when we really up against it, will stand out for me as the best 30 minutes of the campaign. Not for the football, but for the sheer grit and determination of the players not to be beaten.
My back room staff of Jason Dale (who has been my mate since we were eight), Pete Hammatt and Rudi and Bryan – in their dual roles – have been immense alongside Lauren Barnard, who is as reliable a sports therapist as I have come across. They, along with Les Gold in the changing room and Jack Lucas out there taking care of the playing surface, have all been instrumental in our success.
Finally, the people I am pleased for the most are the board members and the supporters (who are all unpaid volunteers) who have got the club into its own ground only 11 years after its formation. They created this club and now gradually step by step it can continue to grow at the right pace to keep it as a viable proposition.
See you at the presentation evening on May 19.