Where does one start? Well, how about at the beginning and the under 14s ? Our youngest competitive side, who play in the Mid Sussex Youth League, enjoyed a terrific run to the League Cup Final, where, despite putting in a fine performance, they were eventually edged out by opponents West Hove Colts in an entertaining affair at the Tinsley Lane home of Oakwood. Our goals came from Golden Boot winner Josh Harland and Harvey Boddy. Indeed Josh ended on a superb thirty goals from just twenty-seven league appearances to finish ahead of the rest in Division One, while Harvey’s ten in twenty-one starts complimented that tally as he too demonstrated a keen eye for goal, courtesy of an equally impressive goals-to-games ratio.

Not to be outdone, our under fifteens also bulged the back of the net for fun on their way to sealing third place in their own Division One of the MSYL. So close were things in the goalscoring stakes that Ollie Vodden and Deion Williams couldn’t be separated, as they were joint-third highest scorers come the end of the term. Both notched eighteen times although Vodden’s total came from one game less. If they can carry those figures up into the U16s next year, then we can look forward to seeing them progress their fledgling careers at the next level and maybe higher. They, of course have Harland and Boddy to, potentially, take their places but a few more spots are up for grabs thanks to the exploits of Josh Edwards’ thirteen in twenty and Liam Hill’s goal-every-other-game eight in sixteen as the team had the best goal difference in the division. A fitting way to mark the last term in charge for Jamie Smith, who will be running the U14s in 2023-’24.

You can never have enough Jamie’s it seems and in the U16’s we had the partnership of one, Mr. Walter, alongside the familiar figure of Stuart ‘Stuuuuuu’ Evans. A fourth-placed finish isn’t something to be sniffed at, particularly when you consider these lads compete in the Under-18 West Division of the Southern Combination League. The theme of goalscoring talent shows throughout all our teams, with the 16’s top contributor being Frankie Spiteri. His fourteen in only thirteen matches was backed up by Costin Manchester’s eight in fifteen, Jed Warner’s seven in eleven and Harry Carter’s six in thirteen. Those figures led to U18 appearances for both Frankie and ‘H’ alongside fellow graduates Dan Gibson, Jack Mclelland, Sam Southgate, Connor Dunn, Kai Fairham, Danny Jordan, Archie Stairs, Dylan Walter, Ellis Collier and Jack Downie.

Defending Champions, our under eighteens endured a titanic battle as others tried to steal their crown but, ultimately, they overcame adversity to conquer all once more; retaining their title following a four-nil win at Lewes on an extremely wet Thursday night in late April. That final day victory included a hat-trick from our very own Erling Haaland, Brad Dolaghan who has scored more goals than most people have eaten hot dinners over not just last season but, consistently, that last few. His twenty-nine league strikes meant that he almost trebled the next highest total, to walk away with a second successive Golden Boot and add to the forty-three in twenty-three turn-outs for the Academy (U19s), to go with various cup goals (18) between the two leaving him on an unbelievable ninety by May and 150 covering the preceding couple of campaigns. One of those goals arrived in the Champion of Champions semi-final against Central Division table-toppers Kingstonian. Reds emphatically gaining a modicum of revenge for the penalty-shootout defeat in September’s FA Youth Cup tie. Although Cray Valley prevailed in the final, very few pick up back-to-back league titles and, of course, the yardstick for the 18s and 19s is breaking into the first team. Something that Brad, Will Tillman, Kyle O’Brien, Reuben Livesey-Austin, Ollie Starkey, Lewis Thorn and Fin Chadwick all achieved. Even though their Sussex U18 Cup defence drew to a close in a epic semi shootout at Hastings United, a memorable nine months was still had by all.

Many of the U18s also line-up for the Academy in the National League U19 Alliance, where ninety-five goals helped them to fifth in the final standings, after promotion to the B Division last term out. They were the first side to take points off runaway Champs Tonbridge Angels and, while a certain number nine may have led the way goalwise, he was well backed by the likes of ‘Chopper’ Chadwick’s seventeen in twenty-five appearances and Rocco Gamblin’s nine from left-back. Fellow forwards, from the already-mentioned under sixteens, Harry Carter and Frankie Spiteri also wore and scored in Academy red.

Some say history was made when the front side took to the pitch for August’s opening day fixture at home to Dover Athletic in National League South. However, in the days before National League North and South, steps, levels and tiers (and play-offs), Worthing played in the Isthmian Premier in the mid-eighties and mid-nineties, when it was Step 2 and promotion would have seen us as the first Sussex team in the top Non-League Division, now known as the National League, after we’d concluded 1983-’84 and 1984-’85 in second place. A rollercoaster of a ride still took us to new heights though as fourth earned a spot in the play-offs. Ollie Pearce passed thirty goals for the second season in a row to win a place in the Divisional Team of the Year and end third amongst the league’s top scorers. His habit of finding the back of the net leading to only clear champs Ebbsfleet United bagging more than the free-flowing Men in Red’s 92, at an average of exactly two a match. Having said all that at the start of this section, Harrison Male wrote himself very much into the record books, by picking up International honours as the first ever Worthing player to pull on the Three Lions jersey. His England C call-up rewarded with a debut in March’s one-nil win over Wales at Altrincham’s Moss Lane. As usual, goals were a regular theme, indicated via seven being put past Concord Rangers and six versus Dulwich Hamlet. Not forgetting the nine-goal Woodside thriller with St Albans City and the Boxing day Bonanza against Hampton & Richmond Borough, that included a visiting treble by future signing Liam Vincent. Most impressive of all though was completing the double over both runners-up Dartford and full-time Havant & Waterlooville. Now, it is true that the Male man did deliver during a year that saw him add ‘Player of the Year’ to his England Cap but many will most fondly remember his penalty-saving exploits, as Reds brought the Sussex Senior Cup back to The Crucial Environmental Stadium after a twenty-four year wait. The only survivor from the sixteen that had picked up three more crucial points at Cheshunt just twenty-four hours earlier, ‘H’ was all that stood between Hastings’ Kasim Aidoo and an Amex showdown with our old friends and on-pitch foes, Bognor Regis Town. A timely and top-draw save later left James Beresford to put the pressure back on; an invitation he duly accepted, leaving Male to deny Jake Elliott from twelve yards and seal a dramatic return to the scene of earlier agonies. Perversely, ninety minutes weren’t enough to separate a pair of long-standing rivals at Brighton & Hove Albion’s stadium either, so spot-kicks would be needed to determine the outcome on a second occasion. Only for an unfortunate injury to our regular custodian in the last game of the regular season to, by then,have already put a spanner in the works. Lancing loanee (from us) Alieu Secka’s cup-tied status meant there was only one man for the job – Will Tillman. Despite not having any senior level experience beforehand, other than as a semi-final sub, seventeen-year-old ‘Tills’ had to step up to the plate. Could he handle the pressure ? Would nerves get the better of him ? Of course he could and not on your nelly !! A calm and confident performance had seen the debutant teenager frustrate the Rocks’ attack and taken the Final to the lottery of penalties. Seventeen, appropriately, had stepped up and Worthing had even missed their first kick, to replicate the semi-final. Joe Rye steered his pen into the top corner, what a finish that was but Bognor Captain Harvey Whyte was up next. No white shirt had given Will a chance – Town’s miss sailing over the crossbar – surely the experienced Skipper would convert ? Unfortunately for him, he didn’t count on ‘Wonder Will’ making a flying stop to guarantee the most prestigious cup in the county would be heading West once again, almost a quarter of a century after the last time.

A bulk order of silver polish went in after our Women’s team claimed not one but two trophies, as they completed a league and cup double. The London & South East League Premier Division Title was sealed in dramatic fashion, following a titanic tussle with long time nemesis Ebbsfleet United. The only side to leave The Crucial Environmental Stadium with three points, it went to the last game of the season, in the final week of May before the ball was, at last, firmly in Worthing’s court. The Kent-based club had led the table ever since that defeat on the 19th of March; a winning jaganaught that, seemingly, couldn’t be caught. However, a sudden and unexpected twist in the tail resulted in Millwall being deducted two points and forced to replay their game with the Reds, when it was revealed they fielded an ineligible player in February’s two-all draw at St Paul’s. Victory for the visitors on the 21st of May would see a Woodside championship decider against AFC Acorns three days later. Having kept pace with the ‘Fleet, to give themselves this opportunity, the Girls took an early lead through leading scorer Chloe Winchester, only for a controversial penalty decision ten minutes before half-time to threaten a derailment. Whatever Harrison Male and Will Tillman could do though, so could Lauren Dolbear, who not only brilliantly kept out Maisie Joyce’s spot-kick but quickly shook off the congratulations of her teammates to launch an immediate counter-attack that ended with Katie Cooper putting us two-one in front. Further goals in the last few minutes from Sammy Quayle and Georgia Tibble saw a commanding 4-1 lead taken into the break. An eventual 5-0 win meant that AFC Acorns were all that stood in the way of glory. A tight and tense affair saw the Rebels edge home 2-1, with Club Captain Gemma Worsfold proudly holding aloft the second piece of silverware of an outstanding campaign. Yes, that’s right, trophy number two had found it’s place in a burgeoning cabinet to go next to the League Cup that had been won via victories over the United’s of Eastbourne, Welling and Sutton, culminating in a semi-final showdown at Fulham that saw a final spot secured against Dartford, at Sutton. Player of the Match Tibble’s early corner curled straight in, Emily Linscer climbed off the bench to latch onto a ball over the top and keep her composure to slot a home second, wiping out a Darts equaliser, before Ellie Russell made sure eight minutes from time. Although,that wasn’t the only cup run the team enjoyed, with a run to the second round proper of the FA Cup only ended in the cruellest of fashions, courtesy of two stoppage time goals at MK Dons. Both competitions had seen the side made to do it the hard way too; all but one tie in each played away from home. As usual, goals were a major theme, led by Winchester on 26,Tibble 23, Becs Bell 22, defender Russell 19, Worsfold 16, Sophie Humphrey 15 and April signing Sammy Quayle with 12 in just 12 matches.
All told, Worthing notched a grand total of 131 in all competitions, conceding a mere 28, heavily backed by Dolbear’s 13 clean sheets. An unbeaten away league record meant that defeat was tasted on just three occasions between August and the end of May, as 61 out of a possible 66 points were collected to make it 30 wins out of 34 games. Now it’s onwards and upwards to Tier Four and more National League (Division One South East) Football for the club.

Further progression and the lifting of cups also found favour with the Inclusive Team. From humble beginnings back in 2018, they now boast around forty-five players, a figure that’s continuing to rise, divided equally into four sides; Red, White, Blue and Orange. Participating in the Sussex Disability League, Manager and co-founder Martin Hunt was named Grassroots Coach of the Year, while teenage goalkeeper Chloe Kerr also collected the Rising Star gong for Sussex at the England Football McDonald’s Grassroots Football Awards last year. Both saw off some stiff competition after more than 150 nominations were received over ten categories. Even though the team prize may have gone elsewhere, a tremendously proud achievement as well nonetheless. No strangers to silverware themselves however, the team did take home top honours from the Brandon 66 Disability Tournament as recently as May, although as I type this, not as recent as just three days ago, when they replicated that success by finishing top of the pile once more at a similar event in Hamble, Southampton. Planning permission was then granted for an extension to an ever-expanding trophy cabinet, as the First Division Blues walked away with the Disability League Cup.