BOWERS & Pitsea are set to play Isthmian Premier League football next season, but it could have all been different had Rob Small not been appointed manager in the summer of 2014.

Small was given the job after a season where Bowers had garnered just 11 Essex Senior League wins and needed a fresh set of ideas.

Five years later and Bowers have won the Essex Senior League and Isthmian North titles, but Small came close to not taking over at the Len Salmon Stadium.

“I remember having to give a presentation about why they should give me the job because the Bowers committee were in two minds as to whether to appoint me as manager,” said Small.

“Mike Barnard, the vice-chairman, put my case forward passionately and I was laughing with the chairman about the whole process when we sealed the title on Saturday.

“I am very grateful that they gave me the chance because as much as they needed me to achieve what we have, I needed someone to give me an opportunity.”

Small made the move to Bowers after enjoying three hugely successful years in charge of Southminster St Leonards.

During his time with Southminster St Leonards, Small claimed the Essex Olympian Division One title and Essex Olympian Premier Division crown.

And Small cannot believe how far the newly-crowned Isthmian North champions have come.

Small added: “When I initially came in, I knew that I was starting with a low base but there was some potential to progress through the leagues.

“If we went back to the summer of 2014 and you said that we will be moving into the Isthmian Premier League ready for the 2019/20 season, I would have taken it for sure.

“I always had confidence that we could achieve great things here but, at the same time, what we have done is unbelievable.”

Since taking charge at the Len Salmon Stadium, Small has led Bowers into the Isthmian North for the first time in the club’s history thanks to claiming the Essex Senior League title and narrowly missed out on the FA Vase final, having been narrowly seen off by Morpeth Town thanks to an injury time winner in the semi-finals.

After two years of heartache - having seen Bowers narrowly miss out on a play-off place and then beaten to automatic promotion by a solitary point 12 months later - Small has guided the club to the Isthmian North title with four fixtures remaining.

The season has also seen major improvements made to the Len Salmon Stadium, with an artificial surface and more seating installed.

And Small insists it is a far-cry from the ground he walked into back in 2014.

“There has been an incredible transformation at the club,” admitted Small.

“I still remember my first game in charge, which was a 0-0 home draw with Tower Hamlets in the Essex Senior League.

“There was nothing to the fencing around the perimeter of the pitch so the goalkeepers had to keep jumping over and getting the ball whenever it went behind.

“There were a lot of conifer trees on the side where the dugouts are and that resulted in us losing lots of balls every week.

“I would say that there were no more than 20 people in the ground for the game and you could hear all of the conversations on the pitch because of it being so quiet.

“Now I look around and we have a state of the art ground and it’s full of people who consider themselves supporters of Bowers & Pitsea.

“I would say that having people to support us is the biggest achievement because we didn’t have that when I came in.”

Small will be looking to write more history in the Isthmian Premier League.