EXNING United are a club with ‘massive ambitions’ for the future.
The Suffolk club, who play in the Cambridgeshire County League, are celebrating after securing promotion and cup success during the 2021-22 season.
Exning United finished second in Kershaw 2B to win promotion behind champions Longstanton FC and also lifted the William Coad League Cup.
Exning United first-team manager Ryan Shepherd, who has been in post for two-and-a-half seasons, spelt out what promotion means to the village club.
He said: “It’s huge for the club! We have massive ambitions for the club and want to play as high a level as possible.
“Exning United is a grassroots football club offering not only Men’s Football but also offering Youth football across multiple age groups with an active player pathway programme in place to support our Youth teams and their players through into adults’ football to keep the local game thriving.
“The higher the level that the first team play, the bigger the attraction to play for the club across all age groups.”
Exning won 14, drew two and lost two of their 18 league games to earn promotion to either Kershaw 1A or 1B next season, equalling the highest level the club has played at under the league’s new format.
Shepherd said loyalty and commitment from the entire squad was the reason behind the club’s successful campaign.
“Last season (2020-21) we managed to keep hold of a core of players and convince lads from higher levels to drop down and play for us.
We had a great season, but unfortunately, we missed out on promotion due to the season being cancelled because of Covid.
“This season has been outstanding and after another successful summer on the recruitment front, we kicked on and had a very successful season, winning the cup and gaining promotion.
“Whilst the footballing element has been successful, we are incredibly social off the pitch, and I believe that that has played a part as nobody wants to be the player to let the rest of their mates down.”
Shepherd said of winning promotion: “This is a great opportunity for us to show we can play at a higher level as a team. We have a lot of outstanding individuals that could play three or four leagues higher with a bit of a point to prove, so this is their opportunity to show it.”
Exning defeated Longstanton 3-2 in the League Cup Final held at The Tristel Stadium, home of Newmarket Town FC.
“We were winning 2-0 at half time and went 3-0 up within the first 10 minutes of the second half starting and started coasting. A complacent, lackadaisical pass and a lapse of concentration cost us the clean sheet, but that’s football,” said Shepherd.
The club’s success in the 2021-22 season is a far cry from the situation Exning United were in when Shepherd took over the reins.
He said: “When I took over the club, we were in real trouble and looked like we were going to have to fold the adults team. I took it on for the remainder of the season to keep the club alive with the view to bring someone more experienced in, in the summer to run things but was convinced to continue.
“From that summer, the players that we’ve managed to bring in bought into what we were trying to do with the squad and the type of atmosphere that we were trying to build, and it seemed to work.
“In terms of outstanding players for the season, it’s very hard to pick a specific individual out as we have key individuals across all areas of the pitch. If we had to choose an area that I am most proud of, I would say that it’s the fact that we have finished the season with a goal difference of 47 and that we have four players in the top ten goal-scorers in Kershaw 2B speaks volumes as to the style of football we want to play.”