Worthing player-manager Gary Elphick revealed it felt like “destiny” that Worthing would secure promotion this season after winning the Ryman Division One South play-offs.
Rebels beat Faversham Town 3-0 in the final on Saturday to seal their long-awaited return to the Ryman Premier Division.
While former Brighton & Hove Albion defender Elphick admitted to feeling pressure at times, he was always confident going into the final two games of the season.
“It feels like the weight of the world is off my shoulders. I try to keep it calm in the press and say there’s no pressure, but you do feel it,” he said.
“It’s unbelievable. I’ll be honest with you, I always felt like there was destiny surrounding me. I felt that something was going to happen at the end of the year.
“I don’t want to be disrespectful to Faversham but I kind of knew we would win. I just thought this is it, this is destiny.
“Destiny doesn’t happen by chance, it’s a choice, and when George (Dowell) appointed me as player-manager I thought I’d give it a right good go.
“I’ve got to say a big thank you to Jon Meeney. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve worked with in non-league and I think we’re a good foil for one another.
“Two games in people were calling for our heads, so I’m glad the fans stayed loyal with us and it’s an unbelievable ending to what has been a fantastic season.
“We’ve got the Amex left as well which would be the cherry on top – just to play there, for the young lads to enjoy it, and then to look towards next season.”
Elphick felt that although big decisions went his side’s way on Saturday, their consistency over the course of the season warranted promotion.
“Look, we had a few decisions go our way,” he said. “I can’t tell whether it was a sending off, I can’t tell whether the ball was over the line.
“Everything has come together today and over the season I think we do deserve it. Even though Dorking had that late run, we were majorly consistent all season.
“We play football the right way, which is my opinion and nobody else’s. To come together, as a young team, to have George Dowell’s backing, is just a fairytale season.”
Of their ten goals during the play-off matches, seven of Worthing’s goals came as a result of set-pieces, either directly or in the immediate build up.
Elphick, who scored in both games, said that he felt his side’s defensive record and set-piece management has improved in the latter stages of the season.
He said: “Every manager at the start of the year said, ‘We can beat them up and bully them,’ but to be honest we’ve caused teams numerous problems from set pieces.
“We’ve worked on them hard and got to grips with them. To be fair, we’ve had the same set piece routines over and over again, but we haven’t been doing our jobs.
“But the last five or six games we’ve been doing it properly, making the runs properly and we’ve reaped the rewards from it.
“I’m absolutely chuffed and it’s great to see our defence come to the fore at the end of the season, keeping clean sheets and gaining solid points away from home.
“Every point we’ve got away from home this year has been absolutely valuable. It’s fantastic and hopefully it’s just the start.”
Saturday’s play-off final attracted 1,889 supporters to a packed-out Photronix Stadium, and afterwards Elphick described the club as a “sleeping giant”.
“It couldn’t have been any better for the club,” he said. “To raise the money that they have done in the bars and things like that, it doesn’t go unnoticed.
“It just shows what great progression this club could have if we keep climbing up the leagues and keep being successful. It’s a sleeping giant of the non-league.
“I don’t want to get too excited and carried away, we’ve got a tough league to look forward to next season, so we’ll take it step by step.”
The season isn’t over yet for Worthing though, with the Sussex Senior Cup final at the Amex Stadium still to come.
Elphick said: “I think we’ll give the lads a week off, recoup and let things tick over. The final is awkward timing if I’m honest with you.
“But it’s a fantastic occasion for the club. We’ll make sure we’re prepared correctly and look forward to the occasion.”