On May 6, Sporting Bengal did the unthinkable. They went from being relegation favourites, to Essex Senior League play-off winners.

Based in Mile End, formed in 1996 as a way of encouraging Asian football in London, fast forward 28 years and ‘The Bengal Tigers’ are now at the highest point in their club's history in Isthmian North.

Sporting had only re-entered tier five last season, having won promotion back to the Essex Senior League via the Eastern Counties League play-offs, but managed to pull off back-to-back promotions after beating Romford in the final.

It’s safe to say Bengal thrived back in step five, winning 21 of their 38 games in the division as they finished in fifth place, thanks to a nine-game unbeaten run towards the end of the season.

Sporting beat Shane Baptiste’s second-placed Woodford Town in the semi-finals on penalties after a 1-1 draw in normal time and went on to beat FA Vase winners-to-be Romford 3-1 in the final.

From beating step three side giants Dulwich Hamlet in the London Cup to play-off glory, it’s been one hell of a year for the club.

Steven Clark is the man who has got The Bengal Tigers back on the map. The 42-year-old ex-teacher works with children in care but comes with a footballing pedigree.

Clark is a former player and was part of West Ham’s star-studded FA Youth Cup-winning team which boasted the likes of Joe Cole and Michael Carrick. The former Hammer had spells with Southend, Dagenham & Redbridge and Macclesfield Town, also winning the Isthmian Premier with Cheltenham City and Conference South with Weymouth.

“For Sporting, this is a huge step,” he said. “It's almost like you're going from what is considered grassroots football to step four where it becomes a lot more professional.

“We came into the season with a lot of confidence having won the play-offs against Stanway the previous year. There was certainly an expectation from myself, knowing the group of players we had, that we could do something again if we were to have a good season.

“With the experience from the previous season, we won our four games away from home in the play-offs which is quite incredible to be able to do that. Going into that Woodford game, we just felt like we were the better team, we felt like we had the momentum, and we felt we had all bases covered in terms of what they could do.”

The hard work didn’t stop after their shootout victory, as Clark’s side had the small matter of beating the FA Vase finalists, ahead of their trip to Wembley Stadium.

On the final win. Clark added: “When we know we're up against it and against quality, it brings out the best in our players.

“Again on the day it’s about which team are prepared the best and I just felt for weeks that we were mentally in a space where we could take on and beat anybody.

“I wasn’t surprised when we got there that we’d win it, I was surprised by the fashion of it! To go 3-0 up away from home is very unlike us – it was an 'I can’t believe it moment.'

“Nothing beats going up in the play-offs, there's just nothing else like it.”

When asked if Bengal could be going for a third successive promotion Clark said: “It’s very optimistic, but that would never happen!

“This year is about keeping our feet on the floor, taking each training session and game as it comes, and not really looking any further than that.”