It started with a gloomy journey up the M4 – and it finished with a triumphant trip in the opposite direction.
Back in April, Borough chairman John Bonar and I were riding shotgun on an extremely sober team coach, returning from a dismal 4-0 demolition at the hands of Chippenham Town in deepest Wiltshire, and trying to cheer each other up.
“Ah,” said John, “I’ve had an email about the National League awards – and you know, we would totally fit the criteria for Community Club of the Season. Shall we give it a go?”
Yours truly, ever wary of volunteering and conscious that the “we” probably means me, nods politely, scans the info, and has to agree that Borough would be prime contenders. “Only problem,” adds Mr Chairman, “we only have five days till the closing date...”
There had to be a catch.
We scrutinised more closely. Several pages, and at a glance around 2,500 words were required – not a problem for certain reporters who write by the yard.
And photo or video evidence to support the bid: that would need a professional, super-efficient videographer. Step forward, Graham Austin. Now, Graham is an absolute unsung hero. He works at the EU in Brussels and commutes on Eurostar, but in his precious free time he films matches and other activities at the Lane and produces video packages of astonishingly high quality.
To cut the story short, we made it. By the end of the week, Borough had compiled a presentation which we knew would have at least a fighting chance. It actually highlighted the club’s work with the Frame Footballers and other disability groups, but it also embraced all aspects of life at Langney Sports Club. And finally, last weekend, John Bonar and other club officials took a drive down the M4 to Celtic Manor, just across the Severn Bridge. The Sports had pipped short-listed Woking and Macclesfield to land the title, together with a £5,000 cheque and a cut-glass tr
ophy. And it was the broader canvas which caught the judges’ eye. “It was heart-stopping on the night! I think they were knocked over by the range of activities at the Lane,” said football chairman John Bonar. “Sue O’Brien, the National League’s administrator, said the judges felt that no other club could compare. We do offer most things from the Nursery to Walking Football, to the Tai Chi and the retired folks’ clubs – age three to about 83!”
A football club is more than a first team – important though that is. To land this award, ahead of the many bigger and better-resourced clubs in the National League, is a credit to so many people who make our club what we are. I hope the town will share our pride.” And the £5,000? “Sorry, Jamie, but it isn’t for the playing budget! We will use it, of course, to extend the community activities, and make us stronger still.”