A decade of success: Hastings' loss was Boro's gain

WHILE Eastbourne Borough celebrate the 10th anniversary of Garry Wilson as manager, perhaps there should be a mini toast for Hastings millionaire Mark Gardiner.

This was the man who scooped 11 million on the National Lottery, took over Hastings and then had a brainwave (or was it a brainstorm?) that nobody could understand.

It was to sack the Hastings manager Garry Wilson.

Now if Hastings had been struggling against relegation, it would probably have been accepted by fans at the Pilot Field.

But at the time, Hastings were well in the top half of the Southern League Premier and looking for a Conference National place. The team had lost only one of their previous seven games and Wilson had actually signed a new contract.

In short there was never a more unjust and bizarre decision in the history of football.

The repercussions were to be phenomenal.

From the day Wilson left the Pilot Field, Hastings started on the downward spiral. A few months later, in February, 1999, when he was appointed manager of Langney Sports, the only way to Priory Lane was up.

In his first full season, Wilson took Sports out of the County League, unbeaten in their first 12 league games of the season.

As the new Millennium was duly celebrated, he told me that his ambition was to bring Conference National football at Priory Lane within 10 years.

His progress has been well documented. Langney Sports, soon to become Eastbourne Borough, made their way steadily up the non-league pyramid, passing Hastings on the way.

One of the most sensible decisions made at the time of the Wilson appointment was to keep Nick Greenwood as head coach.

It was no secret that Greenwood wanted the managerial post, but in the end he was happy to take the number two slot.

I commented in Sports Opinion at the time, "If Wilson and Greenwood can sing from the same hymn sheet, they could between them give the Eastbourne footballing public what has been so desperately needed for years – a side that will represent the town at a standard considerably higher than County league level."

I may have got a few things wrong in my time, but this one was right.

Garry Wilson has worked a soccer miracle at Eastbourne, one that is unlikely ever to be surpassed in the non-league game.

Whatever your local club, raise your glasses to a super successful Scotsman who hates losing and has been a winner all his life – a managerial giant who has brought top-flight non-league football to a town that was sadly lacking an eventful decade ago.