Broadbridge Heath manager Steve Painter says he cannot hide his pride after a remarkable campaign has seen his side secure their highest-ever finish in the club’s history.
The Bears ended their first season back in Division 1 with a 2-0 victory away at Eastbourne United on Saturday to clinch ninth place in the table.
Painter’s side have been crippled with injuries this season having not been able to put out the same team two games in a row, used more than 30 players and had up to eight first team players missing for every game.
He said: “It’s been a long season and it’s been a testing season for us as a club back in County 1 after a long, long stay away. Our league position we are really happy with, if you had offered me ninth at the start of the season, I would have taken it all day long.
“Going into the season with the squad we had I was confident we could achieve top half, but with the injuries we have had, it’s a unbelievable, it’s a remarkable achievement.”
Heath injury woes got worse as the season went on with Kieron Purkiss playing just four games, Noel Etherington missed the whole campaign, Tiago Andrade was out for four months as well as missing Rob Godfrey and Andy Howard for spells.
Not many clubs in the county can boast what we have done – I know we have not won the league, but pound for pound we have shown we are up there with the best in terms of strength in depth.Steve Painter
Painter continued: “There are three of four of our main strike force that got us into County 1 there, and then Matt Carruthers, who I brought in as a replacement for Andy Howard – and is the best signing I have ever made here – went travelling.
“For me it just shows the strength in depth we have and how far the club has come.
“The reserves finished second in the Reserve Premier after winning the league last year and we have taken at least two of their players every game.
“Not many clubs in the county can boast what we have done – I know we have not won the league, but pound for pound we have shown we are up there with the best in terms of strength in depth.
“Congratulations to Horsham YMCA and Loxwood on their great seasons and equally we are just as happy with our finish due to crippling injuries. I do not like using sob stories, but these aren’t, these are facts and cannot be proved wrong.
“I cannot be more proud of my players and the ones I have brought in. Not just that but the committee as well, they have worked so hard and to see the joy it brings is the main reason I am involved in football.
“Teams like ourselves and Loxwood – who have had a truly fantastic season – are doing things the right way. They have got it right off the pitch and it is working on it, the same as us.
“We are looking forward to next season when we have a few back and brought a few in. We have a young squad and they will have had another year behind them. I am looking forward to it.”