The AFC Bournemouth Warriors ended their season on a high with promotion to the top flight of powerchair football for the first time.
With a set of good results required from the last weekend meet-up of the season last month, the Warriors powered through, gaining promotion to the Muscular Dystrophy UK Premiership with a last-gasp draw against champions Manchester United.
Hannah Powis, disability inclusion development officer at the AFC Bournemouth Community Sports Trust, spoke to afcb.co.uk about a frantic and successful final weekend of fixtures, the Warriors securing their place in the highest division with a runners-up spot.
“We had five games over our final weekend and we knew that we needed to win at least three of them,” said Powis. “We started with a 10-0 win over Evergreen, then played Cheltenham who we have lost to before so were a bit nervous going into it, but we managed to win that one 4-0.”
Muscular Dystrophy UK Championship: Top six final standings
“The team below us had dropped points so knew a draw in our final game on Saturday would be enough to send us up. That evening we played Manchester United, but were 1-0 down within five minutes and they were clearly the better team in the first half.
“The guys picked it up after half time and equalised with two minutes to go. The game finished 1-1 - which meant United were promoted as champions and we were up in second place.
“The celebrations were amazing, normally when a goal goes in they’ll celebrate a little bit but when the guys scored the goal that got us promoted they were super excited, bumping each other’s chairs. Then on that Saturday evening when promotion was confirmed they were able to relax a little bit knowing they’d done really well.”
Ready for the big guns
All the games in the league take place in Nottingham over a number of weekends throughout the season, and in 2019/20 the Warriors will now be rubbing shoulders with clubs including Brighton & Hove Albion, Aspire and reigning champions West Bromwich Albion in the 12-team top flight of powerchair football.
“It’s quite a big jump in terms of standard,” explained Powis. “A lot of the teams in the Premiership have been there for a long time. West Brom have won the league for the last two years while Aspire are a Watford-based club who are very good, we’ve lost against a couple of times in the past and have England players in their side.
“Since we earned promotion we’ve carried on training, we’re going to take a break in July but will carry on training through the summer – hopefully with a couple of pre-season friendlies against some Premiership clubs so we know what we’re up against at the start of the new season.
“Now we’re within the top 12 clubs in the country, and the top two from that each year go into a Champions League-type European event, which happens once a year on the continent. For the players this is what they’ve always dreamed about, playing at the top level, so it’s exciting that we’ve been able to do get there.
“Next season we’ll be concentrating on staying up and building the squad, but then in the years after that we’ll be asking if we can push for those top positions and maybe even into Europe."