By Matt Badcock
Ian Long says his Alvechurch squad have been remarkable this season as they secured a second promotion on the spin for the club – and then he let them plan their end-of-season party.
The Church got over the EVO-STIK South promotion line last Thursday with a 0-0 draw against Bedworth United giving them the point they required to finish second behind champions Basford United.
It was a gruelling run-in for Long’s side, but they’ve added the success to their Midland League title from last season.
“I’m proud of the players because they’ve done so well,” Long told The NLP. “Especially the last few weeks where we’ve had to play Saturday-Tuesday-Thursday. When you’re up for it playing for something, teams are bang up for playing you.
“So credit to the lads. It’s a hard slog when they are working all day. We’ve got a few scaffolders and the like, and then they’ve got to travel. A lot goes into Non-League football and that’s why we’ve got to enjoy it.
“We celebrated with a bit of singing and a few drinks at the club. We’ll all go out together after the last game against Loughborough. I wouldn’t let them plan anything because we could have gone into the play-offs but now we’re over the line we’ll all celebrate.
“We had a good crowd through the gate on Thursday and it was a really good night for us.”
Long is now looking forward to the challenge at Step 3 – likely to be in the new Central Division – and is hopeful of keeping the majority of his squad together.
Talented attacker Luke Yates could be on his way, however, with the 18-year-old attracting attention.
The summer signing from Wednesfield has had a trial at West Brom and was at Sheffield United last week.
Long thinks he’s a real talent, but also believes they’ve shown their quality all season in their first season at Step 4.
“There are some really good sides out there so promotion is a wonderful achievement,” he said. “When you look at the bigger clubs like your Leek Towns, Frickleys, Corbys, Stamfords – when you’ve competed against those sides and finished above them it’s hats off to the players. The only word for it is proud.
“They ran their socks off to the last minute. Lads have had to play every minute because we didn’t have enough cover for every position and I can’t speak highly enough of them.
“Their attitudes, preparation for the games – they’ve been top class and I’m full of admiration for them.”