Champions United aim for the Ryman League

Simon Rowland
Simon Rowland

Eastbourne United boss Simon Rowland admitted the overriding emotion on Wednesday night at Oakwood was one of relief.

A 3-0 triumph at Tinsley Lane ensured United will be promoted as champions back into the top tier of Sussex County League football.

Two goals from the excellent West Tate and a strike from skipper Shaun Loft saw United to victory and took their tally to 74 points for the season.

The are five ahead of second placed Broadbridge Heath who visit the Oval on Saturday for the final match of a long and testing campaign for players, management, officials and fans alike.

Promotion was always the target for Rowland during his first season in charge. That goal was achieved two weeks ago but the club were determined to end the year as champions particularly after the double disappointment of the FA Vase semi-final defeat to Sholing and the League Cup semi-final exit to Loxwood.

Rowland said, “There were no big celebrations to be honest. I think everyone was just relieved to get over the finish line. We have been favourites and at the top for most of the season. The last few weeks have been very difficult to get over the line but I’m pleased for the players. They deserve to champions.”

Despite the league success Rowland admits there is still a huge FA Vase hangover at the Oval.

He added, “It certainly made it hard for us. I have seen titles lost after teams have been knocked out of the Vase.

“Teams have been 11 points clear at the top and then lost it because of the Vase.

“It has been difficult to manage and to be honest I’m not sure that we have. I don’t think any manager can deal properly with the disappointment. It was such a bad defeat and it was not as if we were beaten by a better team. We just didn’t turn up for the first half.

“But we found a way and all the credit has to go to the players. The majority have been great and it shows what character they have to come back from that and then win the league.”

The extended Vase run has also enabled the club to continue to improve facilities at the Oval.

Plans are already in place for two new stands. United have also acquired the old seating from the Devonshire Park tennis courts as the LTA have upgraded the centre court for the upcoming AEGON International tennis tournament.

Improvements to the clubhouse are underway,with a new kitchen and ovens in the cafe area plus increased work to improve the playing surface. All works are being completed to Ryman Premier League standard.

Rowland added, “Everything is being done to set this club up for the next few seasons.

“We have a plan to be a Ryman League and hopefully the extra finances we created from the Vase can help us achieve that.

“I plan to go away for a holiday for a couple of weeks and then I will be back on the phones again and organising the side for next season. We will be a force to be reckoned with in division one next season I can tell you that much.”