IN 2006, Malvern Town were promoted to the Southern League from the Midlands Alliance due to a ground grading technicality and current co-manager Lee Hooper was a member of the squad.

'Hoops' was a young striker within the side that reached the Southern League for the first time in the club's history, where they remained for three seasons before relegation saw them drop back down again.

But fast-forward 17 years, and Hooper, now as co-manager with Stephen Cleal, is ready to grab Saturday's promotion-relegation play-off at Highworth Town with both hands and gain promotion outright, without any help.

"I was involved in the only time we have been promoted to the Southern League, as a young player," said Hooper.

"I was part of the promotion then but that was through finishing third and a reprieve from the league.

"So this time to go up would be different and it feels like this weekend is the biggest day in the club's history."

Whilst all focus is very much on Saturday's 90 minutes, Hooper and the rest of the Malvern back-room staff know that regardless of the result, the club are going places.

"To have come from where we did in Step 6 to now pushing for Step 5 football is an outstanding achievement," added Hooper. 

"We just need to go one better on Saturday and get the job done and if we do, we all feel here that we have everything set-up, the infrastructure and the commitment to go up and stay up. 

"But we have to stay focussed on that game on Saturday and with the big crowd behind us, as they have done all season, hopefully we can repay them with a win that will no doubt make it a memorable day for everyone."

It is difficult for Hooper to now think about the potential celebrations that would take place afterwards, with almost 300 supporters likely to follow the team down to Hightworth and then back to Malvern for an evening some, you would imagine, hearty celebrations. 

"God knows what the celebrations would be like," he chuckled. "But we all know we cannot think about that just yet, we have a job to do first and that is what our focus has to be on."

Malvern will train for the final time on Thursday evening before the big game arrives on Saturday.

The Malvern Gazette will have full coverage of all the action at Highworth online and in print.