Eastbourne Borough were victorious in the Blue Square South play-off final against Hampton & Richmond Borough last night, winning 2-0, with two late goals from Nathan Crabb and Paul Armstrong. That result at the neutral venue of Stevenage Borough (a night of Boroughs?) means that Garry Wilson's men will be playing football in the Blue Square Premier (the old Conference) next season.
I am genuinely delighted for Eastbourne Borough. Before this season I knew nothing about the club. My first visit to Priory Lane back in October became a truly defining moment for me on this wonderful journey through the FA Cup. I have just re-read the few posts I wrote about the club back then and I enthused at length about the set up down in Sussex. I make no apologies in repeating some of what I have already said in this blog.
It is a remarkable story. As recently as 1987, as Langney Sports Club, they were plying their trade in the lowest level of non-league football, pitting their wits against local teams in the Sussex County League. In what has been a fairy-tale rise up the pyramid, Eastbourne Borough will next season be playing against the likes of Wrexham, Mansfield Town and Torquay United. This quite simply has to be one of the football stories of the season.
And it could not have happened to a nicer club. I was honoured to be shown around the club upon that first visit and came away totally in awe at the amount of work that has gone on in that part of Sussex to build this thriving community set up. It made me appreciate just what it takes to run a football club, something I had quite naively been oblivious to. And their success last night is a culmination of years of effort built firmly on the foundations of club loyalty.
Loyalty. A word that is quickly disappearing from football dictionaries.
The manager Gary Wilson has been with the club for nine years and his coach Nick Greenwood eleven years. One of the Eastbourne players, Darren Baker, has made over 770 appearances for the club. From the Chairman, through the committee and to all of the voluntary staff at Priory Lane, many who have been around since the 1960s; the development, continual improvement and meteoric rise of the club has been due in no small part to a real "team" ethic.
So a big "Congratulations" to everyone involved with Eastbourne Borough and to the supporters of the club. I was unable to get to the game last night, but sat on the edge of my seat watching it live on televison and thoroughly enjoyed witnessing the emotional scenes of celebration. A truly wonderful evening.
I must give special mention to David Bauckham (photo credit above) and Lee Peskett, both of whom I have occasional contact with still; I couldn't be more thrilled and I hope to meet up with you both for a Blue Square Premier fixture next season.
Now, how good does that sound guys?!