Enfield Town prepare for life in ‘step two’ following sensational promotion

Andrew Warshaw reflects on the greatest season in the club’s 23-year history

Sam Youngs dives into the crowd after Enfield Town scored their third goal against Chatham

The hard work starts now. Those were the immediate thoughts of Enfield Town’s board and management in the aftermath of the club’s euphoric promotion to step two of the non-league football pyramid for the first time in their history.

No-one is under-estimating the task facing Town following their sensational play-off final win at Chatham Town last month, which prompted the mother of all celebration parties back at The Dave Bryant Stadium.

One look at the calibre of opposition Town will be facing when they begin their campaign in National League South – a significant number being teams with full-time professional players – and you get an idea of the challenge.

Torquay United are a former football league team, while Maidstone United knocked Ipswich Town – just promoted to the Premier League – out of the FA Cup in January. Then there are the likes of Bath City, Chelmsford City and Worthing.

But Town are grabbing the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with both hands, notwithstanding the work that will be required both on and off the pitch.

“The enormity of what has been achieved has only just started to sink in,” said Towners vice-chairman Paul Millington, aptly summing up the feelings of everyone connected with the country’s first fully fan-owned club.

It was an especially poignant occasion given that Dave Bryant, the club’s founder chairman who worked hand-in-hand with Paul to establish the club 23 years ago, was not around to witness promotion having sadly passed away just a few weeks earlier.

“It was a bittersweet day in that, unfortunately, Dave was unable to see us promoted, but it was great to share the moment with his daughters Amy, Clare and son-in-law Oli,” Paul told the Dispatch.

“My thoughts were also with others that had done so much, such as ex-directors Roy Butler and Keith Wortley, and also our first groundsman Ronnie Sturgess.”

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Now it is time to get down to the hard work of complying with National League South requirements and making sure boss Gavin Macpherson and his management team are ready to go in August.

“We have ground improvements to carry out, plus we need to give Gavin a budget to compete in what will be a tough league, but we are all looking forward to it,” said Paul. “As Dave would have said – bring it on!”

This is also the view of Gavin, who has hardly had time to breathe since the end of the season as he plots a course for unfamiliar waters. “It’s not only promotion, it’s history and another huge step forward,” he said.

Shortly following the play-off win at Chatham, the Towners players and staff travelled to Italy for the finals of the Uefa-sanctioned Fenix Trophy, but came up short, losing both their games. The disappointing end to the club’s first European adventure, however, still could not take the shine off what will go down as the greatest season in the club’s history.

Gavin has already started tweaking his squad before pre-season friendlies in July, using his expertise to acquire the best value-for-money players given the budget available.

“We’re going to be underdogs every week and I’m not deluded about the gap. There’ll no place to hide if we are not on our mettle because you’re taking on the whole package in terms of what we’re going to face; bigger budgets, tactical nous, experience, better players. But it doesn’t faze me at all. I’m looking forward to it.”

It is anticipated that a good number of the promotion-winning squad will be retained, but Gavin is nothing if not realistic in terms of team building for National League South.

“I’ve had so many players ring me, some who wouldn’t have given me the time of day a year ago. I’ll almost certainly have to bring in some experience at a higher level and will probably have to have some very difficult conversations with a few of those who got us to where we are.

“I’m one of those managers who hates doing that. I’ve grown very fond of them but there will be no false narrative. Honesty is important in these situations.”

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