John Stimpson’s faith in manager Alex Pike has been repaid.
The Gosport Borough president watched with pride as the boss sealed three promotions and masterminded the club’s rise into the Skrill South.
Now, in another stunning chapter, only the Hawks stand between the Privett Park outfit and a place in the FA Trophy final at Wembley.
And Stimpson has allowed himself to reflect on what might have been.
Some of the club’s board voiced their disapproval following Pike’s appointment in 2005 and quickly called for the abrasive boss to be replaced.
But Stimpson – then chairman – stood firm and never regretted appointing Pike to take the helm after Mick Marsh’s retirement.
He said: ‘They were difficult early days but I knew Alex long before he was appointed.
‘He was always throwing brickbats about, reckoning he could do a better job than anyone else.
‘At that time, though, Mick was the man in situ.
‘I had appointed him years before to do a job for the club and never once did he let me down.
‘In fact, had he not decided to retire, the chances are Alex would never have been manager here. It’s as simple as that.
‘But when the time came for a change, I remember several of the committee not really backing my decision to appoint Alex. In fact, for the best part of a year I was under pressure to sack him.
‘Amazingly, when the players heard their manager was in the firing line, they threatened to go out on strike, which was really a string to my bow.
‘It strengthened my determination to keep him.
‘I fought his corner. There were times when I felt several of the board wanted me out as well but I wasn’t going to be budged.
‘The pressure was worth it because gradually the entire committee realised that, although his personality wasn’t always appreciated, he was a top manager who had the interests of the club at heart.
‘Yes, he often rubs people up the wrong way but Pikey’s management skills are there for all to see.
‘I’m proud for keeping him here.’
Borough visit the Hawks for the first leg of the Trophy semi-final on Saturday (3pm).