BENFLEET have upset the odds to be crowned Thurlow Nunn League First Division South champions.

Lee Scott’s side finished top of the table after picking up 103 points from their 42 games.

But chairman Dan Wright would have been delighted to secure a top five finish.

“We would’ve been overjoyed to have made the play-offs at the start of the season,” said Wright.

“It’s hard to put into words and it’s without doubt the most amazing thing the club have ever done.

“We’ve been around since 1922 and we had no right to win it.

Echo: Champions - BenfleetChampions - Benfleet (Image: Nicky Hayes)

“It might be stretching it to compare it to Leicester City winning the Premier League but it’s not a million miles off it.

“There are teams with big budgets and we’re all volunteers turning up for the love of it every week.”

Benfleet won 33 of their 42 matches this season and Wright feels the closeness of the group has been the main reason for their success.

“It’s been amazing and it’s down to the culture,” said Wright.

“Half the teams in our league pay players and some have big budgets but we don’t.

“Our players don’t get paid and we rely on a nice culture and a good bunch who are very talented.

Echo: Celebrating in style - captain Aaron Russell (right) and Rob LaceyCelebrating in style - captain Aaron Russell (right) and Rob Lacey (Image: Nicky Hayes)

“We changed manager in October when our previous manager left for another job and Lee has been the final ingredient the group needed.

“We were already doing alright but we’ve been on a mad run since then. We kept waiting for it to stop and it never did.”


IT is not just success on the pitch which has contributed to this being a season to remember for Benfleet.

A new stadium is currently being built which will see Lee Scott's side playing back in Benfleet at Woodside Park from the start of the next campaign.

And chairman Dan Wright cannot believe how far the club has come since his arrival back in 2019.

"I went down to meet with the chairman at the time," recalled Wright.

"The club was in a bad state and pretty much everyone had jumped off a sinking ship.

"The chairman and secretary at the time were the only people who were left.

Echo: Exciting future - for BenfleetExciting future - for Benfleet (Image: Nicky Hayes)

"They had an eviction notice from the council and there was no money left.

"We agreed I’d see what I could do and had meetings with the council and the Football Foundation about grant funding.

"We managed to get the council to rescind the eviction. they gave us a new lease and we got enough grant funding to get through to that summer.

"At that point I was properly involved and couldn’t give it up.

"I’d worked too hard to walk away and it's crazy to think of how far we've come since then."

However, Wright admitted it had been a gradual process.

"It's been block by block," said Wright.

"It started with stopping the club from falling over altogether and then it was about building the community side which is our bread and butter.

Echo: Champions - BenfleetChampions - Benfleet (Image: Nicky Hayes)

"We got some youth teams and got a pipeline of youth teams so we’ve got a future.

"That took about a year to 18 months to get it functioning like it should.

"It was then about trying to bring the first team back to Woodside which the club had been trying to do for years.

"We started lobbying local councillors and got them down.

"My argument was always why do Canvey have two proper non-league teams and Benfleet have none when it’s a more populated area?

"After a year of getting bored of my arguments I think, the council agreed and it's so exciting what's happening."

Benfleet - who also upload highlights of their matches onto YouTube - have been tenants at Canvey Island for the past six years.

But Wright is already counting down the days for next season when the club will finally be back playing in Benfleet again.

"New ground, new league, new competitions and we can’t wait," said Wright.

"If we could get a home draw in the FA Cup as well then that would really top things off for us."