By Maria Hudd
The scene was set for a new-look Eastbourne Borough to take centre stage. Tommy Widdrington and Alan Kimble took their place in the club’s hot-seat for the first full season with a clear intention to make the team their own.
And stamp their mark they did. A few months of trial and error combined with circumstances beyond their control saw 41 different players pull on a Borough shirt throughout the campaign.
Some stayed, some moved on, but they all played their part in a year of transformation and eventual stability at Priory Lane.
Only eight faces were carried over from last season to this and, as one can only expect, the side were bound to take some time to settle down after all the chopping and changing.
Eventually, they did and went on to finish 12th in the Blue Square South table - one of the loftiest positions they’ve occupied all season - and one point over the 50-point target Widdrington set at the start of the campaign. In terms of hitting the management’s aims, the season proved successful.
It wasn’t without its difficulties though. While they enjoyed a bag of mixed results in the opening stages of the season, there was one big problem that refused to go away: the conceding of late goals.
It started on the season’s opener away to Dorchester, when two goals in the final few minutes denied Borough all three points, and continued to haunt them against Salisbury, Weston-Super-Mare, Tonbridge Angels, Sutton, Basingstoke and Bath, deny ing Borough a total of ten points before the turn of the year.
It didn’t only hamper their domestic campaign though, as a 119th-minute goal saw them crash out of the FA Cup to lower-league Hendon in October.
While that was a disappointing day for all involved with the club, their trip to North London did eventually bear fruit as it led to the club acquiring the services of Elliott Charles.
Charles, who tore through the Borough rearguard in both their meetings with Hendon, went on to become the Sports’ top-scorer netting 14 goals in just 26 appearances.
For a side with such a prolific frontman, their distinct lack of goals throughout the season seems surprising. Charles’ brace on the final day of the season took their tally to 42 for the season - an average of one per game and less than any other side in the division . During February and March, they netted just two goals in eight games.
However, to counteract their goal drought, the Sports were steadfast in defence, conceding just 52 goals past eight different ‘keepers to feature in between the sticks.
Things weren’t without their twist and turns off the pitch, either. In the tail end of the season, news broke that talks with a wealthy Kuwaiti company about a potential takeover had fallen through.
Had it gone ahead, they may have invested in some signs to ensure the tea bar volunteer doesn’t accidentally switch off the floodlights mid-match again...
The lights didn’t go out on Borough’s season, though, and despite loitering in the lower reaches of the table and enduring some brief flirtations with relegation, the eventual 12th-place finish was an improvement on last year, when the club finished 18th with 45 points.
It may have taken some time but, for all the changes, it’s evident Widdrington has found a selection of players that he believes will provide a stable core for a side who can push on to better and brighter things next year.
After all, even Picasso had to rub out some drawings before he created a masterpiece.