“Memories don’t win you football matches.” As his Eastbourne Borough side prepares to welcome Torquay United on Non-League Day, manager Jamie Howell is focusing on the here and now.
The Devon club’s only previous visit to Priory Lane, in 2008 during the Conference National years, is the stuff of Sports legend – a 4-2 home win which many seasoned supporters still regard as the club’s best ever performance. Ashley Barnes was among the scorers as Borough took Torquay apart. The final scoreline flattered the Gulls, as their own local newspaper reported.
Howell also has good memories of a more recent encounter, when his Bognor side knocked out the Gulls in an FA Trophy quarter-final tie two seasons ago. “We just edged that one 1-0. We had a Rocks side who were quite fearless, and I don’t think Torquay enjoyed the experience of a tight-packed Nyewood Lane. But memories do not win football matches, and neither do reputations. It’s a new occasion and a new opportunity.
“We start at 0-0 and like any match, it is ours to win.” Not that, this time around, the Sports can be called underdogs. They are in respectable mid-table in National South, and but for one or two freak results and a couple of touches on the self-destruct button by conceding late goals, they would be front runners. Torquay, in free-fall over the last couple of seasons, began this season patchily but have rallied recently, and in new manager Steve Johnson they have an experienced and familiar character in charge.
Jamie is looking to a home crowd who, week by week, have taken his team to their hearts. “That point about a packed and noisy Bognor crowd is very pertinent. I cannot over-state how chuffed we are to have the supporters onside. They put up with some pasty performances last year, but this season everyone is back in love with the game.”
The last two home games have witnessed 13 goals and Non-League Day should bring in a bumper crowd. Season-ticket holders of Albion and of any other Premiership or EFL club are admitted for £5, and Jamie hopes to win new friends and admirers.
“We actually are on excellent terms with the Albion – we often dialogue with their coaching staff – player information or scouting tips. When one Sussex club succeeds, we are all the stronger for it.
“But we also want to welcome the casual fans, the waverers. Great atmosphere, great facilities, really good football on your doorstep. Come and watch us and you’ll soon stop wavering.”
The Sports boss is still without full-back Marvin Hamilton, whose Achilles injury needs another week or two, but goalkeeper Mark Smith will have shaken off a bruised foot and there are no other concerns.