By Matt Badcock
Colin McBride says AFC Hornchurch returning to Step 3 for when popular boss Jimmy McFarlane is back in the dug-out tops a brilliant season.
McBride, an Urchins director and former boss, has been in interim charge since February after manager McFarlane suffered a stroke.
The Essex outfit have led the way at the top of the Bostik North all season and they sealed promotion with a 6-1 win against Witham Town last weekend before wrapping up the title last Tuesday with a 2-0 victory over Mildenhall.
McFarlane is on the road to recovery now and McBride says the promotion scenes were special.
“The players all jumped the barrier to go and celebrate with him,” McBride told The NLP. “Unfortunately my days of jumping the barrier are gone! I was looking for a gate to get there, but he did come and give me a cuddle.
“It was lovely to see the players share the celebration with him. They’re very close-knit lads – probably as matey as we’ve had.
“We’re going to have a few beers to celebrate – they deserve to celebrate it.”
McBride says McFarlane resuming his dug-out duties has to be done in good time.
“When I got the phone call from his son on that Monday morning at 7am saying what had happened, it was like a thunderbolt,” McBride said.
“Then seeing him in the hospital that morning, it was quite emotional. I’m retired now so I was able to go to the hospital every day for three weeks to see him. The improvements got better and he wanted to talk about football. He’s someone who played for me in the Conference South when he was 44, he broke his leg three times – our ex-physio called him a freak of nature – so I’ve got no doubts about him getting back to the same level. It’s just how long it takes.
“He gave 20 years of his life to me, he’s the ultimate professional, so if I can’t give him six months running the team then there’s a problem.
“Everything we’re talking about – friendlies, players – I run it past him. We talk every day for a couple of hours. We’ve just got to wait for Jimmy and his family to say when he’s ready to come back.”
While plans for their Bostik Premier return get underway, McBride knows pre-season will soon roll around.
And he says going back to basics last year played a big part in their title triumph and their flying start.
“Jimmy put on a really good pre-season – a bit old fashioned where it was more running and leg work,” McBride said.
“I think that’s won us the league. When we’ve played our rivals and been under the cosh, our fitness hasn’t been questioned.
“We’re not the greatest on the eye at times, but we’re fully committed and the players deserve to win the league.”
*This article originally featured in The @NonLeaguePaper which is available every Sunday and Monday
Tagged AFC Hornchurch