Burgess Hill top scorer Harding puts success down to mix of youth and experience
Burgess Hill Town top scorer Pat Harding put his side’s title-winning success down to stability and there being a good mixture of youth and experience.
Harding, 31, who is the son of former Chelsea vice chairman Matthew, scored his 19th goal of the campaign at their 2-0 victory at Carshalton Athletic on Saturday and has seen the team evolve over the last few years.
He said: “We’ve got a good mixture of youngsters and experienced players. We’ve got a lot of players who have played together for a few years. It’s a good blend of people.
“Most of the team has been together for two or three seasons at least and it has been improving gradually each year.
“We’ve got a few youth teamers who have come up and done really well because it’s a really good youth set-up. That has been like new signings.
“It’s been a good squad effort. I usually reckon on scoring 20 goals per season I have scored 22 altogether including cup games, Rob O’Toole has scored around 20 too plus Joe Keehan has been scoring.”
Harding would encourage talented and ambitious young players to play Ryman League football as a way of developing their career.
He said: “Greg Luer has deservedly earned his move to Hull City and if you are playing at this level (Ryman South) and in your teenage years and playing well you are quite likely to get scouted.
“Any youngsters who is not being snapped up by Brighton other other local pro’ clubs have got the potential to go forward if they’ve got the talent.
“Lee Harding, Dan Perry, Will Miles and others here are still in their teens and are in with a chance if they have been playing consistently well.
“That’s why they have been stuck on contract. It would be terrible if they were to go to pro’ clubs and Burgess Hill didn’t receive a fee for developing them.”
Pat praised manager Ian Chapman and his coaching team for leading them to victory and highlighted the success of their defence this season.
He said: “The manager and coaches have all done a brilliant job. We’ve got a solid 16 players who are all capable of playing.
“Our defence has been excellent. We’ve got two new centre backs (Will Miles and Andy Pearson) and a new goalkeeper (Josh James). They have hardly let in any goals and they have definitely pushed us on.
“The forwards may get the headlines but our defence has been our star man. We have been getting the lead and hanging on to it. They deserve some credit.
“The turning point was when we drew 0-0 with our challengers Faversham. That was a good point.
“I didn’t think the players felt under that much pressure today because we didn’t have to win the game.
“But it was nice to win because it gave something to cheer about and set-up the evening nicely!”
Harding, who has previously played for Whitehawk, Eastbourne Borough, Horsham and Hassocks, believes Hill will rely mostly on their existing squad to make the step up to the Ryman Premier next season.
He said: “I think most of the club will stay plus a few additions. Generally when you go up you look for stability and try to establish yourselves as a team comfortable at that level.
“I’m sure we will be alright because we have five or six players who have played before at that level.”