Peterhead can proudly call themselves champions after their League Two title campaign came to a climax on Saturday, writes Joshua King.
The Blue Toon’s 2-0 victory over Clyde, a result which put the destination of the trophy beyond all doubt, marked the end of a journey of redemption which lasted 329 days.
On a sunny day in May last year Jim McInally’s men suffered the agony of an undeserved play off defeat to third-tier whipping boys East Fife.
It was a result would have crippled any other group of young men, but not Peterhead.
Along the way they have paid their fair share of dues and there is no one - not even Annan boss Jim Chapman, who has made himself something of a nemesis in recent weeks - who can say Peterhead have not earnt this success.
As his charges danced and drank champagne with their supporters at the doors of Broadwood, McInally spoke to the Buchanie: “When I came to Peterhead in 2011 I set out to take the club back to where they had been.
“That was the quest and to be honest I never felt as though we wouldn’t do it.
“It’s a phenomenal achievement.
“Personally I felt I had to win this. You set standards for yourself and I felt we had the quality of team that we should win it.”
The 50-year-old also admitted that had he let his team’s grip on the title slip he would have walked away.
“If we didn’t win it I would have failed.”
McInally’s fearsome assistant Davie Nicholls, who secured three successive promotions with Gretna as a player, spoke of his pride in his players.
He said: “After what happened to the players in the play offs, it’s fabulous to see how happy they are now.
“We had a talk after the first few games when things weren’t going as well as we’d hoped and I asked the players to dig deep.
“I asked them to dig deep for Jim McInally because he’s been brilliant and stood by every single one of them.
“Today I said to them, how good a feeling will it be when you go to Peterhead to pick up that trophy as champions?
“Your name is down there in history.”
Nicholls reserved special praise for his boss, whom he worked with at East Stirlingshire before moving to Balmoor.
“Jim’s carried himself with great humility.
“‘Mind games’ have been played but let’s not kid ourselves on, they weren’t mind games.
“For me as an assistant it’s really satisfying that people thought we were going to bottle it and yet here we are.
“They thoroughly deserve their day in the sun.
“As do the guys in the boardroom and all the people who work behind the scenes and travel to all these games.
“That’s what we wanted to win it for - those great people.”
Long-serving chairman Rodger Morrison echoed the words of Nicholls.
He said: “We as a board can be very clever and attract money to give to the manager.
“But without the right manager it means nothing. Jim McInally is that man.
“It’s onwards and upwards from here for Peterhead.”
Have a look at the League Two table and you will understand why Peterhead are champions.
The Blue Toon have won the most games, lost the fewest games, scored the most goals and conceded the fewest goals.
But the only number that matters is in that final column; with an 11 point lead and only three games left to play no one can now catch them.
They have set a few other records along the way too.
Star striker Rory McAllister is the undisputed League Two goal king with 28 to his name already.
He is also the joint-top scorer in the UK’s eight senior divisions this season, matched only by Liverpool hero Luis Suarez.
Peterhead have won at nine of the league’s ten grounds, only failing to pick up three points in their two visits to Annan.
And they join the two Old Firm clubs as the only team’s undefeated at home in the league.