Tony Gold the London Lions manager, has described winning the Herts Senior County League Premier Division as pinnacle of his career.
Arguably the most successful figure in Jewish football, both as a player and manager, Gold, 38, will take the Lions into the South Midlands League Division One for the first time.
Having finished runners-up last season, Gold praised his players for going one better in a season where they overcame a fixture pile-up and lost just two league games all season.
Gold said: "This is without doubt the biggest highlight so far. Winning the Inter-League Rep Cup with the MSFL was special because it was the first time it had ever been won, but winning the Herts County League tops everything. It has taken three years planning to finally achieve what many thought was impossible so I am extremely proud of the lads."
The Lions memorably won the title in the last game of the season when goals from Daniel Stanton and Dean Nyman wrapped up a 2-0 victory over Bovingdon.
"Credit has to go to the players for finding the impetus and commitment to do it all over again," said Gold. "Once the ball was rolling and the players got into their stride, the momentum of winning kept them upbeat and focused."
Always one to look at the positives, Gold believes that last season's promotion heartbreak was a good learning curve. "It certainly helped. I knew that our away form had to improve and we had to make sure we picked up points at certain grounds which we failed to do so the previous season. One pivotal moment in our season was Park Street Village away. No Lions side in 11 years has gone to Park Street and won. This year we picked up a 1-0 victory and that one victory showed how far we have come and that we mean business."
The 18th Maccabiah Games did not affect his preparations for the campaign, despite several members of his squad returning late to pre-season training. Gold said: "It was frustrating not to have the whole squad together to practice set-pieces but in actual fact, the Maccabiah helped because the lads came back fit and just got straight into their stride."
Knowing that he would lose Guy Helman and Eddie Manson, he added Daniel Levenfiche, Danny Berg and Aron Freeman to his squad but injury and work commitments robbed the squad of two of them only 13 games in. Gold was delighted when Dean Nyman joined. He said: "I'd been chasing him for a long time and he's given the side a whole new dimension."
Team GB starlet James Gershfield came in towards the end of the season to "give the squad some much-needed freshness due to injury and suspension to get us over the line".
Working closely with his assistant, Steve Grenfell and fitness coach Darren Yarlett, Gold believes that the team performed "outstandingly well". He said: "The biggest factor was that the players showed a greater consistency this season then last. They have learned how to win ugly away from home and they have been able to adapt to pretty much any footballing situation in terms of game play.
"I am very fortunate to have a great team around me, especially Steve and Darren. Collectively, we all bring something and when pulled together it works perfectly."
A winning team needs special qualities and Gold pinpointed focus and application as the key words that helped the Lions win the title.
The manager is not one to hold back when things go wrong and his motto is 'live each day as if it's your last'. He said: "The players have channelled themselves into their football and I was particularly impressed by how they have gone about playing their football given the disappointment they faced when they learned that we wouldn't be going up last season."
Bad weather was one of the factors that resulted in the Saturday team being forced to play several midweek matches, often with three games in a week during the busy run-in. Gold said: "They coped very well. It was tough both physically and mentally and took a lot out of the lads but again it shows what tremendous strength and belief they have as a squad. Churning out results whilst the pressure increases with every game shows great character." Gold is tipping his boys for success at the next level. "If they as a squad show the same desire and attitude moving forward then they can continue to grow and exceed
"With the current squad, a healthy reserve team and the facilities available, we can succeed in the South Midlands League where I believe that matches will be slightly more physical and maybe a bit quicker. But I still believe we will be the best footballing side in the league."
Gold is looking to bolster his squad over the summer. "I have had a few conversations with one or two
"Every squad needs fresh impetus and we will be no different, but they have to be the right type of player. They have to fit into the structure, players who think it's all about them are of no use."