BOWERS & Pitsea boss Rob Small is eager to claim three points when his side go head-to-head with his boyhood hero tomorrow.

The Isthmian North table-toppers make the trip to second-placed Heybridge Swifts for a mouth-watering contest at the Aspen Waite Arena.

Heybridge suffered a disappointing start to the campaign under Jody Brown but their fortunes have been turned around by former West Ham United left-back Julian Dicks, who Small idolised as a Hammers fan growing up.

“Julian has done magnificently well since going in as manager at Heybridge,” said Small.

“They were in a bad place at the beginning of the season and that was a surprise to many after their success last term.

“When a club is in a difficult period, you wonder how the new manager will cope.

“But this is Julian Dicks and he is a legend.

“He was my hero growing up as a West Ham fan and any players at step four must be inspired by him when he walks into the dressing room.

“All of my West Ham shirts, as a kid, had his name on the back and he was everything you wanted to grow up and be like.

“To be standing in the other dugout this weekend will be great and quite surreal at the same time, but I’m fully focused on us coming away from Heybridge with a positive result.”

The fixture comes less than four months after Dicks opened the revamped Len Salmon Stadium.

And although Small admitted it will seem strange looking at the Swifts boss as a rival, he was not surprised when Dicks was appointed the hosts’ boss.

“He opened our stadium and that tells you how highly he is regarded in our local circles.

“It wasn’t a huge surprise when he took the job because I know he lives near to Heybridge and he had been doing some coaching within their youth set-up.”

Bowers go into the top-of-the-table clash six points clear of Heybridge having claimed five league wins on the bounce.

And Small is pleased to see Bowers back in top form.

“We had a little wobble at the end of November, but we picked ourselves up and churned out some results which were much-needed,” admitted Small.

“We’re only at the halfway mark in the season, so there is a long way to go, but we’re full of confidence.

“It’s a privilege to be playing in a big game like this.

“Two or three years ago, when we were in the Essex Senior League, we wouldn’t have dreamed of playing top-of-the-table games at this level.

“It’s another illustration of how far this club has come.”