A mere 21 years ago, Alex Pike led Wimborne Town to a famous FA Vase success at the old Wembley stadium.
But ahead of tonight’s all-or-nothing play-off showdown at Stourbridge, the Gosport Borough boss insists that remarkable achievement would be put in the shade if he could lead his troops to the Blue Square Bet South.
Gosport snuck into the Southern League premier division play-offs courtesy of Rory Williams’ goal in the 1-0 win over St Neots at Privett Park on Saturday.
They overhauled rivals Barwell, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Frome.
But Pike has shrugged off the 1992 win over Guiseley at Wembley – his finest hour as a manager – just days after its 21st anniversary.
Pike recalled: ‘It was a great day but Wembley was just a cup final with a cup at the end of it. So of course this is a bigger game.
‘This actually means something – it will mean us playing at a different level and moving up through the pyramid.
‘Just a few years ago, there were eight different leagues between us and Pompey.
‘And now, if we can get promoted, it would only be two. That shows the progress here.
‘There is so much at stake when you go up through the levels.
‘But it’s not only the biggest game of my career – it’s the biggest game Gosport Borough have ever had.’
After promotion in dramatic style at Poole Town last season, Borough could emulate that and reach the highest level of football in the club’s history if they can come through this game and then win the play-off final.
And Pike admits Gosport’s ultimate goal continues to shift in line with their ongoing progress through the non-league pyramid.
He said: ‘It’s impossible to answer how high we could go.
‘Ahead of this game, I might say that Blue Square Bet South would be our level that we could aim for.
‘But then, if we got there, suddenly people start putting more money in and the bar is raised again.
‘Then we might start thinking about getting into the premier. Then what happens if we got there?
‘I’m sure we would start aiming for the Football League.
‘Football is all on shifting sands. If you get to that level and you don’t attract the investment, you have then got a real battle to stay there.
‘But it never enters my head that we wouldn’t be able to compete at the higher level.
‘It is the chairman and the board who decide the level they want to play at and it’s then my job to either get there or maintain it.
‘The club obviously feels it can sustain the level above.
‘I’m only as good as the tools I am given. But I have proved, at any level if I am given the tools, I will win promotion.’
While Pike is struggling for a central defender after Danny Smith picked up a hamstring strain in the win over St Neots, he has yet to decide who will step in.
Regardless, he believes Stourbridge will feel the burden of expectation on their shoulders.
He said: ‘The pressure is on them tonight.
‘They finished second, and if that was me, I would feel aggrieved that we didn’t get promoted.’
‘We can go into this with no fear whatsoever. And I would say they have got more to lose than we have.’
GOSPORT (from): Ashmore, King, Martin, Woodward, Molyneaux, Brown, Igoe, Wooden, Williams, Wilde, Bennett, Wilson, Kirby, Poate, Ender, Jones, Way