Captain Ricky Mercer has been there and done that when it comes to winning promotion but says Lancaster City’s title triumph is the best of the lot.
The central defender has also tasted championship glory with Fleetwood and AFC Fylde during an impressive non-league career.
But having succeeded club legend Neil Marshall as captain, the Lancaster great passing away after a battle with cancer in November, Mercer admits the Dollies’ Evo-Stik First Division North win meant more than any other.
Marshall’s number five shirt was hung in the dressing room ahead of the final-day victory at Glossop North End alongside a picture from his final game before retirement at the end of last season.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have this experience a few times before,” said Mercer, who lifted the trophy with Marshall’s young son Max.
“But with what this means to the fans and the bigger picture and what it’s for, it’s the most emotional I’ve ever been winning a title.
“The biggest thing for me in non-league football is getting motivated for games.
“We had the Neil Marshall dinner this year and the ticket from the dinner I’ve kept in the visor on my van.
“Every time I’m going to a game I just have a little look and it just spurs me on.
“That’s my way and I’m sure the lads have other ways.
“He’s definitely played his part this year.
“As devastating as it is he was definitely there with us in the dressing room, 100 per cent.”
Mercer has been at the heart of the best defensive unit in the league this year, a solid base key to the Dolly Blues pipping Farsley to the title by a single point.
“As the season’s gone on I think we’ve been very, very solid as a team,” said the former Preston North End youngster who passed a late fitness test to play against Glossop.
“The goals conceded and the clean sheets speak for themselves.
“When we’ve lost games too we’ve bounced straight back.
“That’s been the key for me. Apart from towards the end of the season where maybe fear crept into our performances a little bit.
“We kept plugging away and never gave up, we always had something in our minds that made us stick at it.
“As for the gaffer, he just never says die and it just rubbed off on us.
“We certainly did it the hard way but we got there in the end.”