When their 2017/18 season in the Vanarama National League South ended on Saturday 28 April with a 3-2 win against Concord at the Westleigh, the Hawks had gained promotion for second year in succession.
In two dramatic years the Hawks had gone from dismay and disaster to euphoria and joy. This time last year I reported Hawks return to the Vanarama National League South after just one season in the Ryman Premier League having been relegated at the end of the 2016/17 season.
One year on, following a very tense end to an exciting 2017/18 season, the Hawks have earned a second successive and hard-fought promotion. This time to the Vanarama National League, the pinnacle of non-league football and Hawks highest ever league status. It places them within one step of membership of the English Football League and just two divisions behind the team up the road!
Postcode Publications sports correspondent Tim Randall has spoken exclusively to Trevor Brock, the Hawks Club Secretary and senior board member, about the club’s promotion next season to the Vanarama National League, the top non-league division in England.
Mr. Brock said “It has long been our aim to reach the Vanarama National League. The relegation to the Ryman Premier League at the end of the 2015/16 season shook us. It was a big set-back. We had wanted to do well that season and although we had the basis of good quality local players we decided to recruit some from further afield. That resulted in unrest and dis-harmony in the dressing room and ultimately relegation.
“Having been relegated, the Club stood by Lee (Bradbury). Lee is ambitious and has managed in the English Football League. Together we reviewed everything about the club with the aim of restoring our speciality - team spirit built on good quality local players and a happy dressing room.
“For the 2016/17season we retained our best local players and recruited others to strengthen the squad. The dressing room harmony was restored. Lee and his management team continued to receive our full support and we regained membership of the Vanarama National League South at the first attempt.
“We started the 2017/18 season aiming to consolidate ourselves back in the Vanarama National League South and give existing players a chance. Our speciality is team spirit. Everyone at the Club responded. The team is all together and is the best we’ve had. It has been built on a strong defence. We were not, however, expecting to achieve a second consecutive promotion.
“Getting to the top of the non-league football pyramid, currently to the Vanarama National League, is the biggest step up for a football club at any level. Many teams at this level now are full-time, but at this Club our players are in other jobs and want part-time football. The Board here knows what is needed in our newly acquired status and initially we shall continue with our policy of having good quality part-time players. We cannot have some part timers and some full timers. It would not work.”
With the Hawks having now attained membership of the top non-league pyramid I asked Mr. Brock where does the club go from here?
He said “We must be realistic, but we feel we can be successful. We aim to consolidate and reassess as we move forward. Like any successful organisation we need to keep progressing. We are working hard on the basic needs for the Club to meet in its first season as members of the top league outside of the English Football League. Thankfully no big expenditure is needed at the ground.
“The changes we do need to adapt to include:
- The extensive travel requirements throughout the season across the whole of England and Wales.
- New contracts for the players. We will retain the existing squad, give them every chance.
- Add 2 or 3 National League standard players who we feel can help the team to consolidate and do well in the National League.
- New contracts for the management team”
Hawks successful season also saw them lift the Hampshire Senior Cup on 18th April at Southampton FC’s St Mary's Stadium with a 3-0 win against Blackfield & Langley of the Sydenhams (Wessex) with goals from Andy Robinson, James Hater and Jason Prior. They also lifted the Portsmouth Senior Cup at Pompey’s Fratton Park on 17 May with a 3-0 win against AFC Portchester also by 3-0 with goals from James Hayter (2) and Alfie Rutherford.