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Deal Town manager Steve King on Southern Counties East Premier Division title glory, the support of his family and a 3-1 win over Lydd Town in front of a record crowd

Manager Steve King thanked his family for their support after Deal secured the Southern Counties East Premier Division title on Saturday.

A 3-1 home win in front of a record crowd of more than 1,400 against Lydd was enough to ensure the Hoops will finish as champions, with four league matches still to play.

Title-winning Deal boss Steve King. Picture: Paul Willmott
Title-winning Deal boss Steve King. Picture: Paul Willmott

Teenage forward Jamie Kennedy gave them a great start and substitute Ife Oni made sure of the points in the second half after a bizarre own goal within second-half seconds.

The Lydders did get one back but they were well beaten and, with Corinthian losing 2-0 at VCD, Deal could get their promotion party started.

On the bumper crowd, King, cousin of defender Joe Reeves, said: “When I came out onto the pitch before the game, I got a bit of a lump in my throat.

“I’ve got to mention my family and my fiancé, Kelly. I’m football mad and they have suffered.

“I haven’t missed a game, I haven’t missed a training session for nine years. I have missed birthdays, I have missed weddings and a lot of other stuff to try and do this, and for them to be here as well, it was nice to spend some moments with them after the game.

Report: Deal 3-1 Lydd

“They have been so supportive of me. People don’t realise that this isn’t paid. It’s not my job! It should be a hobby - but it’s more a second job.

“Our families and the people closest to us are the ones that suffer most. To have won it at home and to have those people here to see how much it means to everybody, I hope they understand the commitment.

“But a massive thank you to my fiancé and the family.

“I’m not easy, I hate losing, I’m intense and they suffer, really. I was really proud when I saw the crowd and to have so many family and friends among that.

“That was really nice.”

Deal celebrates one of their goals during their 3-1 win against Lydd on Saturday. Picture: Paul Willmott
Deal celebrates one of their goals during their 3-1 win against Lydd on Saturday. Picture: Paul Willmott

Next season will now be Deal’s maiden campaign playing Isthmian League football and the first time they have played at the level in almost 50 years.

The Hoops struggled for early-season results but have since recovered in emphatic fashion.

“I’m delighted,” enthused King.

“Obviously, we did a lot of the legwork in the last couple of months and it’s been about getting over the line in the last week or 10 days. Someone, somewhere, wanted us to win at home on a Saturday (to seal the title).

“I wanted to win it on Tuesday night at Lordswood (a 2-2 draw) - but we wouldn’t have had the same scenes if we had. I’m relieved that we have got it done and I’m absolutely delighted.

Teenager Jamie Kennedy shoots at goal for Deal. Picture: Paul Willmott
Teenager Jamie Kennedy shoots at goal for Deal. Picture: Paul Willmott

“I think we deserved it. To win it with four games left, having had two points from three games, that’s a magnificent achievement from the players and everyone at the club.

“We’re really going to enjoy it and we’re going to enjoy the rest of the season now.”

With plenty of ambitious divisional rivals also gunning for promotion, the Hoops weren’t pre-season title favourites, despite last term’s third-placed finish.

On winning the title, King said: “It’s a really big achievement.

“I don’t want to talk about budgets and stuff like that too much - at the end of the day, every club does what they want to do.

“But we’re a self-funded club. Nobody puts any money in and all the money we generate is from the crowd. Obviously, we had an unbelievable crowd today.

“A lot of the boys have played 200 or 250 games for the club, but we have a young 19-year-old (Kennedy) boy from the reserves come in and he scored.

“Young Max Niblett came back from university at centre-half. He’s another Deal boy and he’s only 20.

“I don’t like the phrase ‘the right way’ - at the end of the day, football is about winning and being successful - but a lot of clubs have spent a lot of money and have got a lot of very good players in.

“For us to have done what we have done, built it since 2015 and really in the last few years - coming fourth and then third last year - I think all the hard work people have put in shows that, if you do things properly at a football club, have a supportive board and show a bit of patience, that you can be successful.

“It’s not about me. I lead the group but the support of the board and the support of everyone around the club (is excellent), as well as the players.

“Their loyalty and that of the coaching team shows it’s a massive team effort.”

Kennedy put the Hoops in front inside a tense first 10 minutes to settle the nerves at the Charles Sports Ground and then, just 10 seconds after the restart, a booming punt miscued off Lydd defender Jahmahl King’s head to give them a second.

“It was just lucky,” admitted King.

“But, in the 93rd minute at Lordswood on Tuesday night, we have a stonewall penalty turned down and they go up the other end, we kick it into our own player and it goes in for an own goal.

“Then, we hit the post in the 96th minute and it bounced back to the keeper. I always say that, over the course of the season, luck evens itself out and refereeing decisions even themselves out. That’s why winning a league is such a big achievement.

“No one can argue that, over 40 games, the best team doesn’t win it.”

Away substitute Jack Shonk denied Deal keeper Adam Molloy another clean sheet with a stoppage-time goal - but it’s fair to say King wasn’t too concerned about that!

He said: “I don’t care.

“Of all the goals I’ve ever conceded while I have been at this football club, that’s the one I care the least about!”

Deal will host Punjab United on Tuesday.

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