Mark Bonner takes great pride in leading Cambridge United to promotion to Sky Bet League One
Mark Bonner could not hide the pride in his Cambridge United squad as they clinched promotion to Sky Bet League One with a 3-0 win over Grimsby Town.
They went into the match at the Abbey Stadium needing a point to ensure promotion from League Two, but got all three thanks to goals from Liam O'Neil, Wes Hoolahan and Paul Mullin.
The final whistle sparked joyous scenes inside the ground, but also outside, where a couple of hundred U's supporters had gathered in the front car park after cheering on their side from Coldham's Common during the match.
From a distance on the roof of the turnstiles, United's players went to applaud the supporters who have been forced to watch their heroes from afar because of the pandemic.
“Sorry to the police and stewards that told us not to do it, but I’m sorry there was just no chance that we weren’t going to be able to do it," said U's head coach Bonner.
“The boys have been great, they deserve that. They’ve gone through the whole year without that.
“We had two horrible games where people turned up, then we played against Colchester good when they were here.
“The best buzz we’ve had in recent weeks was 10 people in an AirBnB at Leyton Orient so since then we’ve not had a lot; and they’ve deserved it.
“Paul Mullin has scored 34 goals and not really had much celebration with them, and there were so many moments where you need that. So for them to jump up on the roof, I didn’t know whether the turnstiles were going to withhold the weight.
“It was great to see Harry Darling and Robbie Cundy here today as they have played a part in that as well."
United have been in the top three at some point in every month of the season except December, and they finished the campaign in second place, two points behind title winners Cheltenham Town.
“We’ve earned the right to be there. I think the fact we’ve been there all year, we’ve had ups and downs throughout the year.
“December was a bad run, the last two weeks when you haven’t got the results we wanted, that’s a bad moment.
“But we’ve overcome them really well. We’ve kept our calm and held our nerve which is really important in those periods, because they are always going to come whatever league or season you’re in.
“When you look across the course of the season and how we long we’ve spent in the top three or top six, that alone just tells you we’ve been there all the way.
“You could say it’s because we’ve played more games than everybody else, but I don’t like that version.
“I like the version that we’ve been really consistent and staying there by our own merit."
But Bonner only felt automatic promotion was achievable in the closing weeks of the campaign.
"You always think it’s on, the play-offs have been on for quite a long time, but it’s been on for so many teams, that’s I think the point.
“In this league and in this game, as soon as you think something is on it just doesn’t happen.
“People have been telling us for weeks, months, you’ll be alright, you’ll get there. But it doesn’t feel like that when you’re in it.
“It’s really intense, you’ve got to get over the line and get to that point. We haven’t quite been able to do in it in the last few weeks."
As to whether the promotion has a greater importance as he was a boyhood United fan, Bonner said: “I don’t think it means more, because I’m not a fan now. I love the club and will always want the best for it, which is a good motive and motivation to have, but I don’t see myself as a fan now.
“It’s probably one of the reasons I’ve been able to stay fairly calm throughout the whole period!"