Bradbury happy to repay Hawks’ faith with his ‘biggest achievement’

Lee Bradbury joins his Hawks team to celebrate his side's Hampshire Senior Cup victory at St Mary's Picture: Chris Moorhouse
Lee Bradbury joins his Hawks team to celebrate his side's Hampshire Senior Cup victory at St Mary's Picture: Chris Moorhouse
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The Hawks stood by their manager following relegation.

Such faith is largely non-existent within the modern game, yet the reprieved Lee Bradbury is seeking to continue delivering his thanks by securing successive promotions.

The resurgent Westleigh Park club are eyeing a place in the National League for the first time in their history.

They currently stand three points adrift of leaders Dartford with a game in hand as they head into an intriguing run of three fixtures in eight days.

In April 2016, Bradbury’s side were relegated from National League South, butt chairman Derek Pope stuck with the former Bournemouth boss.

The Hawks’ patience was rewarded with an instant return, capturing the Ryman Premier Division title following a goalless draw at Kingstonian a year ago.

Now Bradbury is aiming to maintain that ascent and create club history, with today’s trip to third-placed Cheltenham their latest challenge.

The former Pompey favourite said: ‘We had a disastrous year when we went down, it was the highest points total for a relegated side – and only one goal was in it. That was very unfortunate.

‘It would have been easy for the club to sack me, but Derek and the board had seen what I’d done before that. We had always grown and also reached the play-offs.

‘When I arrived during October 2012, we were third from bottom and finished 10th, the following year we missed out on the play-offs by goal difference.

‘The year after we reached the play-offs and the next campaign were favourites to win the league – but instead went down.

‘I’ve had one bad year, that one year clouds it.

‘Derek has been very loyal and it would be fantastic to repay him for that faith he put in me following relegation.

‘Do you know what, I didn’t ever think I would get the sack. I am not blowing my own trumpet but, for the level we were at, I don’t believe they could have got anybody who would have been as attentive or as hard working, doing things right.

‘I made a couple of bad signings unfortunately, you live and die by them and we got punished for it with relegation.

‘I paid the club back last year by getting us back on even terms, if you like, but I don’t see that as a positive, it’s just returning us to where we were.

‘Promotion this year would really be a positive, a bit of icing on the cake.

‘If we could get up it would be a thank you to everybody who stayed with me.

‘After relegation you ask questions of yourself, of course you do, anyone who is backed into a corner has to find out about themselves and do the best they can, making decisions and standing by them.

‘I certainly didn’t think promotion this season would be achievable. My thinking was if we could claim mid-table on the coattails of the play-offs then it would be a fantastic first year back.

‘And we have a chance.’

Bradbury was Bournemouth boss when they reached the League One play-offs in the 2010-11 campaign.

With future Pompey players Jason Pearce and Danny Hollands in their side, they were eliminated at the semi-final stage by Huddersfield on penalties.

And the 42-year-old is convinced this Hawks season has the potential to eclipse that achievement.

He added: ‘This would be my best achievement in football by a long way.

‘I got Bournemouth into the play-offs in League One, but Eddie Howe left in the January so half of that credit has to go to him.

‘He got a lot of the squad together to put us into the position – and I maintained it.

‘We had an average budget and that was a good achievement – but this would be better.

‘I feel this is my team, a side I put together, something I achieved from scratch if you like.

‘Ed Harris is the only player remaining from when I walked through the door, everyone else are players I recruited.

‘You live and die by decisions. I have done it – and at the moment we are living by it.’