Harleston Town's promotion is reward for the loyalty shown after 2019 demotion
If ever you sought the perfect advert for sticking together when the chips are down, look no further than Harleston Town.
It was back in 2019 – after a season in which they had finished second and won the Thurlow Nunn League First Division Knockout Cup – that Harleston were demoted by the Football Association due to ground grading issues.
Yet rather than jump ship, the majority of the squad stayed put and after being promoted back to Step 6 as part of a major restructure of non-league football 12 months ago, Saturday saw them secure Premier Division football for the first time in the club’s history.
They fell behind early on at home to Downham Town in the play-off final, but Nathan Russell got them level before late goals from Josh Durham and Nathan Page wrapped up a deserved 3-1 victory.
“I’m delighted for the club and the chairman because he’s stuck by us,” said Nicky Howell, who announced he was stepping down as manager after the final whistle.
“I’m also massively delighted for the players that stayed with us when we went down. They kept with us and got us back up.
“For those that hung around when we got demoted, it’s a big achievement.
“I was a player at the time and we felt going down was a little unjust, but to come back and then go up again is fantastic.
“The credit goes to everyone at the club – we’ve all worked so hard to get here.”
The final whistle was met by jubilant scenes, while chairman Adam Mullin – who has been connected to the club in various capacities for 35 years – was visibly emotional.
He said: “Nicky Howell and the boys, most of them when we got relegated, they could have gone elsewhere.
“But they didn’t, they stuck with us and this is for all of them. If I was slightly emotional at the end it was because of them, it wasn’t about me and what this club means to me.
“They’ve been amazing for us and our young 17-year-old Josh Durham, words fail me!
“He can walk to the ground from his house and that’s what this club needs to be about.
“I just picked up a baton from great people like Neil Shannon and Craig Trudgill. I’m just a small cog in the amazing work they’ve done in the first instance.
“When Craig took this club over I think they were in the Fourth Division (of the Anglian Combination League) and they weren’t winning games.
“And now look at it, and it’s because of people like him and people like Paul Bliss, Ryan London, David Norman, Gavin Durham – this is where we’ve come from and it’s all their hard work.”