THE founder of Eastleigh FC admits it is hard to believe the club is on the cusp of promotion to the fifth tier of English football.
Life president Derik Brooks will be prouder than anyone if Eastleigh get the point they need to win promotion to the Skrill Premier, against Basingstoke Town this afternoon.
The 90 year-old is a regular at the Silverlake Stadium and still recalls the club’s birth in 1946.
Brooks said: “To think we are about to go into the highest level of non-league football is amazing.
“We began in the Southampton Junior Leagues as Swaythling Athletic, playing on Southampton Common behind the Cowherds Pub, where we marked out the pitch with sawdust.
“Our changing room was an Air Raid Protection shelter when we moved to Swaythling!
“Eventually, we moved to Eastleigh and became founder members of the Wessex League, so it’s been a gradual progression.”
Eastleigh were in the Wessex League – now the Sydenhams League – as recently as 2003 and reached the Skrill South under club legend Paul Doswell, who is now the manager of rivals Sutton United, nine years ago.
“This has been the best season we’ve ever had,” said Brooks. “I’ve been confident about every game we’ve played and the support we’ve had has been fantastic all year.”
Known as ‘Mr Eastleigh’, Brooks was the club’s secretary for more than 50 years and was in a crowd of 1,006 for the 1-0 win at home to Dover Athletic on Tuesday night.
“That’s one of the biggest crowds we’ve had and fingers crossed we’ll have a few more on Friday,” he said. “We’re a very professional club now and Richard Hill has done a great job; he’s tough but fair and we play entertaining football - the way the game should be played.
“I’m sure he’ll look to strengthen in the summer, he’s probably already thinking about that now.”