POOLE Town boss Tom Killick admitted he was "star struck" when he met Arsene Wenger following Arsenal's recent victory at Southampton.

Killick was part of a Dolphins entourage at St Mary's, after Saints striker Charlie Austin generously offered his former club free use of his executive box for the evening.

Austin's "amazing gesture" enabled Poole to sell hospitality in order to generate further funds towards the improvement of their Black Gold Stadium home.

The club's recently finished campaign was played out to the backdrop of a dramatic race against time, with Dolphins having to complete a significant ground upgrade by March 31 to avoid relegation from National League South.

They succeeded in that mission, and Killick insisted Austin deserved a large slice of credit for continuing to back the club he left for Swindon Town in 2009.

Killick told the Daily Echo: "It was an amazing gesture. He has his friends and family, in particular, who normally use the box and it was brilliant for us to have that opportunity.

"The club was able to raise money by selling that hospitality.

"It was typical of Charlie. The money we have received from him over the years, in terms of transfer fees and sell-on clauses, has been an absolutely integral part of our progression.

"And he goes above and beyond what anyone could really expect of him, to help us out.

"A lot of professional footballers get criticised and I think the gesture he made should be highlighted. It was hugely appreciated by the club and by me."

Poole's improbable promotion bid was derailed by their off-pitch issues last season. They secured an against-the-odds fifth-placed finish in the first campaign following their jump from the Southern Premier League.

That would have secured a play-off semi-final with eventual winners Ebbsfleet, only for FA bigwigs to intervene.

Despite the transformation of Dolphins' Tatnam headquarters, the ground does not have 500 undercover seats, an obligation for clubs operating at the highest level of the non-league game.

Consequently, Poole's play-off spot was taken by Hampton & Richmond, with vice-chairman Chris Reeves telling this paper that spending on the extra seats could have placed the club's existence in jeopardy.

Austin netted 64 goals in 57 matches under Killick, when Poole were still a Wessex League club.

He has used his Twitter account to keep the club's plight in the public domain and topped off his guests' visit to St Mary's by arranging for them to mingle with the players post-match.

Killick secured a snap with brilliant Chilean attacker Alexis Sanchez, a goalscorer in Arsenal's 2-0 win.

But it was his encounter with three-times Premier League winner Wenger that made a lasting impression.

"Charlie got us passes into the players’ lounge and for me, personally, it was a very good evening," said Killick.

"I was very star struck! I managed to have my picture taken with Arsene Wenger, which was a massive thing for me. I was completely in awe of him."