Isthmian premier? Hastings United want to win it

Billy Wood says Hastings United are going up to the Isthmian premier division with a desire to win it.

The Pilot Field chairman and CEO insists they fear no-one at the higher level after romping to the Isthmian south east title.

Wood says they have already identified five players who they may try to bring in to strengthen the squad, and they expect the bulk of Gary Elphick’s promotion-winning side to stay for the new challenge ahead.

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Billy Wood and Bertie get their hands on the league trophy

He has also paid tribute to ‘leader of men’ Elphick for the way he led the promotion bid and got the players through some ‘hairy’ moments.

Wood said: “The title is a great result for the club and the fans but it’s been so long coming. For me, I suppose there was still some frustration it didn’t happen sooner.

“When Chris Agutter left in November I was asked if the ambition was the same and said ‘yes’. We had hairy moments but I never lost the faith. I’d promised we’d do it and didn’t want to break that promise.

“In Gary we appointed a man of integrity and honesty, a leader of men. He is phenomenal to work with but I have so much respect for the whole staff. I’m just the cheerleader.”

Gary Elphick has been praised by Billy Wood for being a 'leader of men' / Picture: Scott White

Hastings are champions.

Wood said a big summer of vital player recruitment lied ahead so the squad was in good shape for the Isthmian premier campaign.

“We have no intention of going up to make up the numbers – that’s not who we are,” he said. “We’re going up wanting to win it. If you don’t try to win any competition you’re in, what’s the point of being in it?”

Wood thanked the people of Hastings who’d backed the club in huge numbers. Their average home crowd of 1,262 was almost double the next best in the division and better than all but Worthing’s figure in the Isthmian premier.

“I’m so proud of the growth but it’s largely because we care about the town and embody the town’s values of community spirit and believing anything is possible,” he added.

“When I arrived at the club I talked of the club being a sleeping giant – and now the sleeping giant has awoken.” Read more from Billy Wood in next week’s Observer.