When the Eastbourne Borough players run out of the tunnel just before 3pm on Saturday, it will be a ‘pinch myself’ moment.
Not only because it will finally realise my boyhood dream to be the proud owner of a professional football club - but because what the team here has achieved in just two months is nothing short of remarkable.
There are so many echoes of Ted Lasso - the hit US drama which saw an American college football coach take over English side AFC Richmond, and find success with optimistic leadership - it is what’s gone on here in the past two months.
So there’s a certain amusing serendipity that we host today as our first league opponents Hampton & Richmond. There has been serendipity sprinkled through the whole process.
I first visited Eastbourne Borough in March and exchanged contracts three months later, in June. It's been such a crazy eight weeks since, that at times it's been hard to imagine this moment would even be possible.
On the playing side, we appointed a new management team headed up by the brilliant Mark Beard, who have worked around the clock to take us full-time, including signing a talented new squad of players, and implemented a training and fitness regime under watch-full eyes of Niall Clark the envy of many clubs in the divisions above us, let alone at this level.
We organised a training camp in Wales, to help the players gel and improve their fitness so we hit the ground running. We bonded and learnt a lot about each other.
What we’ve achieved off the pitch has been no less a feat. We’ve created a stunning bespoke kit and designed some cool merchandise, proudly bearing our re-imagined club crest which maintains tradition but brings it into 2023.
We’ve painted the stadium and made improvements throughout, and changed the main stand seats and dugouts. We’ve got a couple of new flags, and supported Eastbourne Pride.
We found supportive sponsors, not least the global travel powerhouse Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. who had no hesitation in becoming our shirt sponsor when we told them about our vision of grassroots sport initiatives which will give back to the community. Thank you also to Connect Management Ltd,Chilli Pepper Designs, Bexhill College and MG Eastbourne for supporting our journey.
We’ve built a new club shop and cafe, named after the club’s later former CEO Mike Spooner, and improved the kitchen and the menus in our restaurants, negotiated multiple new contracts with amazing suppliers new and old.
New charity partnerships has been formed with Sporting Wellness, a company dedicated to supporting the mental health and emotional wellbeing of professional sports people. You Raise Me Up Fundraising who support families who have lost adult children. We will help them both by raising their profile and raising money throughout the year.
Our in-house media has improved dramatically. We have appointed a couple of cool media agencies to create amazing social content to help you get to know the players, found a Hollywood star in Oliver Trevena to come along on the journey, and agreed a deal with a TV network to broadcast the story!
We created radio, digital and print ads to be on every local radio station, every local magazine and even printed and distributed 50,000 copies of our our own magazine to all homes and businesses in Eastbourne. And the players faces appear on all digital screens across the town.
We are delighted that the town has already begun to back us, with more than 1,000 present for each of our pre-season friendlies - a campaign which has seen us remain unbeaten.
Now the real hard work starts, in our first league game, against Hampton & Richmond.
Because if we have achieved all of the above in just eight weeks, imagine what we can do in the next year, and beyond.
But ultimately none of it will be possible without the most vital ingredient - that’s you the supporter - I’ve no doubt the team will make us all proud.
Enjoy the game, enjoy the season, and enjoy the journey as The Sports enter a New Era.