Baptists' boss hails '˜fabulous achievement'

Battle Baptists manager Gary Walsh hailed a '˜fabulous achievement' after the football club won a national knockout competition.

Thursday, 25th May 2017, 11:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 10:17 pm
Battle Baptists manager Gary Walsh (left) and coach Dan Collins celebrate with the trophy.

The Baptists were crowned National Christian Cup champions by dint of a 3-1 victory over Liverpool side Bridge Chapel in Saturday’s final at The Valley, home of Charlton Athletic FC.

Walsh said: “I looked at the previous winners on the trophy and they’re all from big, big footballing cities in the north of the country. The furthest south it’s been is Hertfordshire so for little Battle in East Sussex to win it against all of those big city clubs is a fabulous achievement.

“National champions sounds so wonderful doesn’t it. It’s been a bit hard to sink in to be honest. The whole day was such a fantastic event.”

Adam Higgins-Gooch closes down a Bridge Chapel opponent.

Walsh went on to say that the town itself had really got behind the club on its path to glory in the 25th annual staging of the National Christian Cup.

Speaking on Monday evening, Walsh said: “I went round the town today to all the businesses who agreed to put up our poster advertising the final. It was a lovely experience and the whole town has rallied behind us.”

He also praised the support his team received at the final. Two coachloads of supporters took advantage of free coach travel to the game and a number of others travelled independently to South London to cheer the players on.

“It was wonderful to look behind (from the dugout) and see people shouting for Battle,” continued Walsh. “We did outnumber their supporters probably three to one, and it does make a difference when you can hear your supporters shouting for you and cheering for you.

Battle's players and management celebrate victory after the final whistle.

“Credit to everybody who came and supported us and a big thanks to everyone who did, and especially to the church for putting on that free transport.

“Hopefully that will be a good foundation and if we can get some more support from the townsfolk that would be really good.”

Saturday’s victory capped a remarkable season for Battle, who also finished runners-up in the Macron East Sussex Football League and won the league’s Premier Travel Challenge Cup after beating league winners Hollington United in the final.

“We started off at the beginning of the season wondering what we would achieve this year with fairly limited targets,” added Walsh. “But the players have just got better and better and better as the season’s gone by, and they’ve grown in confidence.

Battle Baptists full-back Ian Rafati blocks the path of an opponent.

“It’s fantastic for them to actually win something. We’ve not won anything before so to win one cup would’ve been perfectly okay for us, but to win the cup double is just wonderful.

“We now look to next season and hopefully we’ll be able to build on that. When you get a bit of success you like the taste of it and you want more of it.”

After a long campaign which started way back on the first Saturday of September and took in some 33 matches in all competitions, Battle will now enjoy a well-earned rest for six weeks or so until the start of pre-season training for next term on the first Wednesday in July.

“It will start with a lot of momentum and enthusiasm,” said Walsh, who described Saturday as his finest day in football.