‘It’s phenomenal news’ – US Portsmouth stalwart Bob Brady on club’s historic promotion to top flight of the Wessex League
US Portsmouth stalwart Bob Brady has welcomed the ‘fantastic news’ of the club being promoted to the Wessex League Premier Division for the first time in their history.
The FA Vase semi-finalists have been elevated from Division 1 by the FA as part of their long-awaited restructuring of the bottom end of the non-league pyramid.
That was after USP had boasted the best points-per-game record in their division over the past two pandemic-scarred campaigns.
Brady played for the club’s predecessors, Portsmouth Royal Navy, after they were a founder member of the Wessex League in the mid-1980s.
But USP had spent their entire life in the second tier after being invited into the league in the summer of 2004.
‘It’s fantastic news for the club and for everyone who has been involved in it,’ Brady told The News.
‘There’s lots of people who have worked so hard for so many years.
‘Hopefully now we’ll have a side worthy of playing there (Wessex Premier).
‘We’ve got a side who are worthy now - I’m hoping some of them might stay, we’ll have to wait and see on that.’
Brady, the current USP secretary and a former manager, added: ‘It’s phenomenal for the players and staff here, and phenomenal for those who were involved before.
‘Phil Braithwaite and Dave Fuge worked hard behind the scenes for many years, and myself and others before that.
‘Having played for Portsmouth RN when we were in the Wessex, I think the club is now back to where it deserves to be.
‘We’ve got the facilities - the ground has the best lux factor (for floodlights) in the Wessex League.
‘Hopefully we can get a team together to present ourselves at what is a good level.’
USP’s promotion is reward for a consistent few years, not just the last two.
Between 2008/09 and 2018/19, they finished in the top five of Wessex 1 on no fewer than six occasions - their highest finish was third in 2008/09.
They were also top when 2019/20 was null and voided after the first lockdown had been announced.
Hythe & Dibden and Alton have also been promoted from Division 1 into the Wessex top flight.
Like US, Hythe have never previously played in the Premier Division since they were elected to the Wessex League in 2004.
They were fourth bottom of a 21-team Division 1 in 2016/17, but were third in 2018/19 and last season (2019/20) lay 10 points behind table-topping USP with four matches in hand when the pandemic struck.
Alton have never played in the Premier either but predecessors Alton Town spent nine seasons there after joining the Wessex in 2002. The club dropped the ‘Town’ part of their name five years ago.
Elsewhere, two clubs have left the Wessex Premier in the FA’s restructuring - Lymington Town moving up to the Southern League, after Christchurch turned down the chance, and Fleet Town asking to be moved sideways to the Combined Counties League.
Strangely, while the FA have allowed that, they have also brought another Fleet team, Spurs, back into the Wessex structure from the Combined Counties.
That means there will be four new clubs in a 20-team Division 1 in 2020/21 - Spurs and Aldershot-based Ash United plus Hampshire Premier League pair Infinity and Bush Hill.