Borough's rise is the stuff of dreams

Imagine your pub team playing against the likes of Wrexham, Mansfield and Oxford United in 40 years' time.

Sounds ridiculous doesn't it but that is exactly what Eastbourne Borough have achieved after winning promotion to the Blue Square premier.

Borough were like any other park team when a group of mates formed the club under the name of Langney Football Club after a few beers in the pub back in 1964.

They played on council pitches in front of one man and his dog in the Eastbourne and Hastings League, put up their own nets and washed the kit themselves.

Fast forward 44 years and eight promotions and Borough are within touching distance of the Football League - a truly fairytale rise in an age when the word is often overused.

Chairman Len Smith was one of the founder members of the club and admits their main ambition in the early years was just to get 11 players on the pitch.

Smith said: "We were just a group of mates who had got too old for youth football so decided to start our own team. We didn't have any ambitions for the future back then, we just wanted to play football.

"I remember we used to be happy if we got a couple of lines in the local paper and now we are playing games on live television -it is beyond our wildest dreams.

"To go from where we were to where we are now is amazing but I think the key has been that we have done things at a steady rate rather than get ahead of ourselves.

"We've never planned for promotion but we've always made sure the club and its facilities are ready in advance in case it came along.

"A lot of the people who helped formed the club are still involved and I think that is also a major part of our success. Melvyn Key, Mick Grimer, Doug Kenwood and myself were all members of that very first team and are now on the committee.

"We were just a bunch of lads who liked football back then and in a way that is still how the club is run. Everything that happens behind the scenes is done by volunteers who do it for the love of the club rather than for money."

Smith identifies three key moments in the club's history which have contributed to their success.

He believes the move to Priory Lane in 1983, the arrival of chief executive Mike Spooner in 1993 and the appointment of the current management team of Garry Wilson and Nick Greenwood in 1999 all played their part in last Thursday's victory in the Blue Square south play-off final triumph.

Smith added: "I think moving to our own ground started everything. Before that we were playing on council pitches but when we moved to Priory Lane it created a lot of interest and people started taking us seriously.

"We just got together one night and decided it was something we needed to do. We wanted to be based in Langney so we identified a couple of fields and then got on with turning it into a football ground.

"We did all the work ourselves. The original idea was just to have the pitch but then we decided we needed changing rooms, then toilets and showers and after that we thought we might as well build a bar too."

The move to Priory Lane coincided with Borough's move into the newly formed division three of the Sussex County League. Five years later they were in division one.

Spooner was just a spectator then but was soon roped in to edit the club's programme and pass on his knowledge of the non-league game.

He gave the Borough committee an insight into what was beyond the County League but it was Wilson's arrival as replacement for Steve Richardson that lit the blue touch paper and started an unprecedented period of success with four promotions in nine years.

Smith added: "Before Mike came in none of us had any idea about what was above the County League so he helped us realise what could be achieved.

"Garry then became manager and we haven't looked back. We can't forget what Pete Cherry did as manager as he got us up from the Eastbourne and Hastings League to division one of the County League but Garry had the experience and professionalism to take us to the next level.

"He won the title in his first season and we had no hesitation in accepting promotion. A lot of clubs at that time decided not to go up because of the expense involved but we didn't see the point in winning the title if you weren't going to give it a shot at a higher level.

"That has been our philosophy all along. We have made some big jumps up in the past and there have been doubts whether we would be able to cope but each time we have proved we can. Now we are faced with another huge leap next season but everyone at the club is fairly confident we can take it in our stride again as long as we stick to the principles which have helped us get to this point in the first place."

click2find

Get Adobe Flash player
About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree