Whitcombe’s awesome foursome as Meon Milton celebrate Mid-Solent League title success
Bayley Whitcombe struck his third post-lockdown hat-trick as Meon Milton stormed to their first-ever Mid-Solent League title.
Meon entered their final day double header with Portchester Rovers at Eastney Barracks needing just a point to clinch the Division 1 championship.
They could even have afforded to lose both games if Mob Albion had failed to beat Burrfields at Westleigh Park.
Meon’s nerves could have been jangling after the previous week’s shock 2-1 home loss to Burrfields had kept their champagne on ice.
But Whitcombe bagged four goals in the opening hour-long game as Meon romped to a 6-1 success against Rovers.
Dale Homes - a recent signing who once played for US Portsmouth in the Wessex League - completed the half-dozen haul with a brace.
Whitcombe had previously bagged hat-tricks in successive games against Wymering (7-2) and Mob (6-4) last month.
The title having already been won, in Bickram Singh’s first season as player-manager, Meon then triumphed 2-1 in the second match - Bill Cook and Harvey Cooper on target.
That ensured Meon finished six points ahead of Mob, who beat Burrfields 2-1 with goals from Andy Brown and Barry Keogh.
Singh revealed a few home truths had been aired following the shock loss to Burrfields that shattered his hopes of an unbeaten league campaign.
‘We sat in the dressing room for 45 minutes after that game and had a long chat,’ said the former Gosport Borough, Bognor and Moneyfields player.
‘We addressed a few things there and we knew we had to come out (against Portchester) and do a job, which we did.
‘Everyone played with flair and played with confidence - not just the starting XI, but the ones who came on also played their part.’
Singh, who started his youth career at Meon, is now preparing to take the club into county league football for the first time.
Their application to join Division 1 of the Hampshire Premier League should soon be rubber-stamped.
‘When I took over last summer we had six players at our first training session, it was crazy,’ Singh recalled.
‘But we eventually got the squad together and I knew that potentially we had a very good squad.
‘I drilled it into the players in pre-season that I just wanted to win and win.
‘I can be a little bit ruthless, but there’s no point turning up just to lose games.
‘It’s all about the attitude. Players have got to have that self-control and they need to turn up on time. If you can’t do that, you’re not the player for me even if you can play.’
Singh has added to the squad that he inherited, rather than building his title-winning team from scratch.
New signings last summer included his relatives Aran Singh and Jagjit Singh, Dan Edwards and Sam Fowler.
Holmes was signed on after grassroots football restarted in early April.
More new signings - including some from fellow Mid-Solent League clubs - will be on board for the 2021/22 HPL campaign.
‘The squad know there’s more players coming in,’ said Singh. ‘The squad has to grow - we can’t just have one player for each position, we need two.
‘I’m hoping all the squad will stay. A lot of them have been with the club since youth football, so hopefully they’re hungry to stay and help move the club forward, to persevere with what we’re trying to achieve.
‘It’s all about trying to grow the club. We also want to build the youth academy so kids aged 10/11/12 can have something to look up to, something to aspire to.
‘I don’t just want to get to the Hampshire League (Division 1) and hang around. The ambition is to keep moving on.’
Singh admits he has learnt from some of his previous managers, such as Bognor’s legendary Jack Pearce and Alex Pike at Gosport.
‘Jack’s a phenomenal manager,’ said Singh. ‘He’s just at another level.
‘Pikey drilled into us the drive and ambition to win games, he was a great motivator.’
With the championship trophy now won, Meon’s attentions now turn towards the Billy Hill Cup.
They meet Portchester Rovers again in the first round this Saturday, with Matt Hickey in charge as Singh is away.
Eight of the 13 MSL clubs have entered, with other ties being Wymering v Mob Albion, Segensworth v Burrfields and AFC Stubbington v Horndean United.