Enjoy the moment says Fowler, because Whyteleafe are the champions
Whyteleafe are the champions of the Southern Counties East League – and boss John Fowler wants his players to make the most of the moment.
The title was clinched in front of almost 300 fans on Monday, when goals from Bentley Graham and Greg Andrews saw off nearest rivals Ashford United 2-0.
The victory opened an unassailable eight-point gap at the top of the table and, with one match remaining, confirmed a first league title since 1969.
Leafe will now enter either the north or south division of the Ryman League.
Fowler said: “It is absolutely brilliant, not just for me but for the players as well because they have worked their socks off all year and they thoroughly deserved it.
“Before the game the key point was not to be too hyped up. Instead we told them to relax and enjoy the occasion.
“Sometimes you can get frustrated when things don’t go your way, but we only needed a point and so we told them that a clean sheet would do it.
Captain Marvel: Skipper Jason Thompson with the silverware Picture: Chris Layton
“After the game there was plenty of singing in the changing room, and the players should make the most of it, because many of them will not have this kind of experience again – so just enjoy it.”
Leafe could have won the title on Saturday, and kept to their side of the bargain beating Corinthian 3-0 at Church Road.
However, Ashford’s 1-0 win at Tunbridge Wells meant the Leafe faithful had to postpone celebrations by 48 hours.
Fowler said: “The supporters have been brilliant. They have been behind the team all year, home and away and so they deserve a massive thank you.
“We knew the Ashford game would be a hard battle, but when our second went in with about five minutes to go, you could see them deflate.
Not just yet: Jason Thompson celebrates his goal in the 3-0 win over Corinthian on Saturday, which would set up Monday's title clash
“Their boss knew it was over and he came over to our dugout to shake our hands – it is a sign of the respect we all have for each other.”
Leafe began their league campaign with 20 wins from the first 23 games, but three defeats in four games over March and April almost played into their rivals’ hands.
However, Fowler pointed to one result in particular that was key to the title.
“We won the title at Tunbridge Wells when we beat them 3-2,” he said.
“We’d had a wobble, losing to Ashford and they thought we would lose at Tunbridge, and if we had then Ashford would have had more of an incentive.
“So to win was so important, especially after losing the pressure game at Ashford and then losing at Corinthian.
“The Ashford manager told me that when they saw we’d won, it deflated them and they knew it was over and done with.”
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