Braintree Town’s fairytale story is ‘remarkable’ says Iron chairman Lee Harding

Halifax Town v Braintree Town

Halifax Town v Braintree Town - Credit: Archant

Braintree Town being promoted to the Football League would be a football fairytale to rival the remarkable Leicester City Premier League success story, according to Iron chairman Lee Harding.

Braintree players (L to R) Sim Akinola, Sean Long, Mitch Brundle celebrate victory at Wrexham

Braintree players (L to R) Sim Akinola, Sean Long, Mitch Brundle celebrate victory at Wrexham - Credit: Archant

The small-budget Essex part-timers head into their final match of the regular National League season on Saturday needing just a draw against relegation-battling Altrincham at Cressing Road (5.30pm, BT Sport) to confirm a play-off place.

If they went on to secure promotion via a play-off final at Wembley then they would join already-relegated Essex neighbours Colchester United in League Two next season.

This is a club that was playing in the Eastern Counties League at the start of the 1990s alongside the likes of Cornard, Felixstowe and Stowmarket. Now they are beating the likes of Tranmere, Grimbsy and Wrexham, the players still managing to fit in jobs which include taxi driver, support worker and personal trainer.

Danny Cowling’s squad have covered more than 2,500 miles on the road in the last month. When they got back from a midweek match at Barrow recently, the majority of players got off the coach at 6am and went straight to work.

“We are on the verge of something truly remarkable,” enthused Harding. “Just like Leicester in the Premier League, ours is such a refreshing tale. We have no prima donnas, no sugar daddies backing us, but an incredible unity and togetherness.

“When we won the Ryman League in 2006 everyone said ‘Braintree are punching above their weight, they’ll go back down’. It was the same when we won the Conference South.

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“We started this season, once again, as many people’s favourites for relegation. How wrong were they?”

Harding, who took over at Cressing Road in 2003, said: “We’ve shown that the non-league pyramid system does work and that you don’t have to get hundreds of thousands of pounds into debt to make progress.

“As a business we turn over around £350,000 a year. Cheltenham received twice that amount as a one-off parachute payment after being relegated from League Two.

“Forest Green Rovers made a £2.9m loss last year which is more than 10 times our entire playing budget! We have players on £150/200 a week, sensible amounts.

“Our overriding principle has been to try and play at the highest sustainable level. We have never pretended to be something that we’re not. We are a reasonable sized market town in Essex, but we believe that this town could sustain a Football League club.”

Braintree are encouraging fans to buy tickets for Saturday’s game – priced at a reduced £15 – in advance. The Cressing Road ticket office will be open 7.30–9pm tonight.