Leatherhead’s chairman hails the season when fans came together in the name of... Riding the wave to the top
When Leatherhead chairman Peter Ashdown surveyed the scene at Fetcham Grove in January, he was knee-deep in flood water.
But if he was a multi-millionaire he could today swap the dirty River Mole overflow for the finest champagne after his side overcame adversity to win promotion to the Ryman Premier League.
In his five years in the hot-seat, Ashdown has witnessed promotion before – followed sharply by the disappointment of immediate relegation – but this time round it means so much more.
Not only does he believe the side is better prepared under boss Richard Brady, he also believes that the community spirit borne out of the response to the floods will push them forward to become an established Ryman League top-flight side.
Ashdown said: “Promotion means an awful lot to everyone associated with the club and it is a huge relief, especially when you consider all the problems we have faced this season.
“It shows the strength of character in this club, and I don’t just mean from the players, I include the supporters and everyone from the community who came to the ground to help with the clear-up operation after the floods.
“The response was over-whelming and without them I often wonder if we could have kept going. But we did, and now we want to established ourselves as a Ryman Premier League side.
“Everyone, whichever sport you play, wants to play at the highest level possible, and we are no different.”
Ashdown, who is also the chairman of Leatherhead Cricket Club, believes Brady will not be making big changes to the side, with only a couple of names being added over the summer.
However, while promotion will bring extra revenue from larger gates, there will not be a transfer war chest for the manager.
Ashdown said: “To be honest, any war chest floated away with the floods, but we’re not just aiming for survival and I believe Richard is already making plans for next season.
“It is a balancing act between making the most of the extra gate money, and using it wisely on new players.
“The Ryman Premier is a very physical league and we will need to be ready for that, but Richard has the experience.
“When we were relegated last time round, we had not prepared well enough for what we were about to face, but this time I believe we will be ready.”
He added: “With the support of the community behind us we came through the floods, and I believe they can help us push on to greater things next season.”
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