Pope: National League arrival is the realisation of our dream

Derek Pope celebrates Hawks' promotion success with Lee Bradbury
Derek Pope celebrates Hawks' promotion success with Lee Bradbury
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Hawks celebrate with the fans at Westleigh Park. Picture: Neil Marshall

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WHEN the Hawks step out for their first National League match of next season they will have a very proud chairman watching on.

For Derek Pope and his directors and staff this has always been the promised land.

A place where they were long dreaming of being but never quite able to reach.

That situation has now changed with manager Lee Bradbury, the coaching staff, and the players producing their remarkable run to win the National League South title.

All of a sudden in two years the Hawks have gone from dismay and disaster to euphoria and joy.

Chairman Pope feels that because the club have experienced such bad times it will be all the sweeter when they rub shoulders each week with the best non-league clubs in the land.

He said: ‘Three years ago I was sitting in a boardroom watching us in the play-offs against Boreham Wood and I had a massive heart attack and was taken to hospital.

‘I then realised when I came around the next day that we lost which was a bit of a surprise.

‘The following year we were favourites to win that league and we went down.

‘That’s how football is, sometimes, then there you are two seasons on.

‘We won that league, the Ryman. Then we won the Conference South and now we are where we are.

‘It’s always what we wanted to do, always.

‘Our directors have been here for years and this is the biggest thing that has ever happened.

‘It’s something we have always wanted to try to get to, never thought we would get to and now we are there.’

Pope has been so impressed with the way the management team of Bradbury, his assistant Shaun Gale and all the staff have turned the club around.

The chairman added: ‘We are all loyal. I’ve got a lot of support for Lee and for what he does behind the scenes and how he works. A lot of people don’t see that. A lot of people cast their opinions and their votes on him but they don’t see what he does.

‘They see it from the outside. I see it on the inside. Where we meet and we talk and we go through things.

‘If everybody made a mistake and you got rid of them you’d have nobody working for you, would you?

‘That’s the way I see it. You can afford to make mistakes sometimes and from those mistakes you learn a lot.

‘We are all loyal. Lee has been here a long time and Shaun has been here since 2000, so that’s 18 years. The club means a lot to us all.’