Published: 07:40, 18 September 2019
| Updated: 07:43, 18 September 2019
World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson has sent Sheppey a message of encouragement as they look to put two years of pain behind them.
The Island side are starting life in Kent 2 this Saturday, following back to back relegations, where they managed just one league victory in the past two seasons.
First XV skipper Dave Rumbold contacted Wilkinson to let him know how tough things have been in recent seasons, and the man who kicked the winning points in England’s 2003 World Cup campaign was quick to respond.
Wilkinson said setbacks in his career made him the player he was – one of England’s all-time greats – and challenged Sheppey to do the same.
In a video message, Wilkinson said: “Throughout my career, there have been times where I didn’t get what I wanted and times people didn’t think what I wanted to about me and times when nobody agreed with me. I look back at those times and I feel that’s when I grew the most and I think, ‘thank god it happened.’
“If those things hadn’t happened then I wouldn’t have ever found out anything about myself, or my potential, or my ability to respond, which is ultimately everything.
“I know if you guys can find the opportunity in these setbacks to find the reasons to take the next step and find a way to make sure it is your step and you own it your way, together as a team, this journey will end up somewhere far more beautiful than you could have ever imagined.”
The message was well-received by the Sheppey players, with those old enough to remember Wilkinson’s triumphant display in 2003 “going nuts over it” according to Rumbold.
Sheppey’s plummet has seen them drop from London 3 South East straight through Kent 1, and now they’ll be starting life in Kent 2 with a home match against Greenwich this Saturday.
“Hopefully the really hard times are over,” said Rumbold.
“It has been pretty hard (not winning). On the pitch it’s not been great but we set out to make sure that off the field, the social side and everything surrounding the team was as good as possible. It took the edge off the results.”
After two tough years, Sheppey are keeping expectations grounded but certainly don’t want to be embroiled in another battle at the bottom.
Rumbold said: “We would be disappointed if we finished in the bottom half. Hopefully we can consolidate this coming season and if we seem to be progressing and fighting for promotion then great.”