Ashley Purser and Bedmond Sports and Social Club have found the perfect fit in one another after winning the Herts Senior County Premier Division for the first time in 28 years.
A pulsating battle with Belstone which saw Bedmond win the title by four points, despite scoring less goals than their nearest title rivals, saw Purser’s side eventually seal top spot in style with a week to spare, beating Letchworth Garden City Eagles 10-1.
Just a season after returning to the top-flight, Bedmond have conquered it, thanks in no small part to the guidance of Purser, who left Park Street Village after a trophy-laden stint with the West Herts League side.
“In terms of where we were a couple of seasons ago, we couldn’t have dreamt we would be where we are now. It’s been an amazing season,” admitted Purser.
“I just fell into the Bedmond job to be honest. They were bottom of the first division when I took over. I think it was fate really, they needed someone to manage them and I needed somewhere to go.
“We re-built from the bottom up and last season we won promotion and won the Intermediate County Cup too,” added Purser.
Despite only winning promotion the season before last, Bedmond were not aiming merely to retain their place in the Premier Division but the level of the side’s success still took Purser by surprise.
“The target was a top-four finish and a cup semi-final, so we were very disappointed to lose the last of our semi-finals. There’s no doubt we’ve exceeded our expectations,” acknowledged Purser.
“We lost three cup semi-finals but after the last of those we went on a 12-match unbeaten run and that gave us the confidence to get across the line.
“We beat Belstone which was our focus from the word go. We knew we had to beat them twice and we played both games in a three-week period and that gave us the momentum we needed to kick on.”
What arguably makes Bedmond’s achievement all the more impressive is the fact they have won the title whilst not being able to call upon a depth of talent – unlike other sides in the division.
“I think I’ve got the smallest squad in the league, I’ve got 16 players so I’ve had to balance and rotate them,” explained Purser. “There’s one team that I think have 58 players registered to them.
“It brings you all together and makes you a tighter group and it builds your team spirit. The way they fight all the way is so impressive, we’ve won a lot of games 2-1 this season, particularly during the run in and it shows in that.
“The team spirit has been fantastic.”
Whilst Purser is loathe to heap all the praise on one individual, he can’t help but eulogise about the contribution of 36-year-old former Chesham United hitman Gary Sippetts and strike partner Aaron Lewis, who between them netted 48 goals in all competitions.
“Gary Sippetts has been a different class. He’s been so important,” stated Purser. “There’s him and Aaron Lewis and the explosiveness of Aaron and the control and ability to bring others into play of Gary has been key. Gary’s experience definitely helped us get across the line in the run-in.”
Purser also paid tribute to the supporters, who he feels are ‘unique’ within the league: “What we’ve got at Bedmond is supporters there on a week in, week out basis, who have played for the team or managed the team and I think that's incredible; it certainly makes Bedmond a unique club.”