FOOTBALL: “Positivity” At Pilot Field As Groundsman Returns
Players, directors, backroom staff and supporters of Hastings United could all be forgiven for wallowing in a combination of outrage and self-pity after the club’s Betvictor Isthmian League 2019/20 campaign was declared null and void at the end of March. At that point, as we reported four weeks ago (“No Fruits of the Season?” HIP 149), United were top of the South-East Division table; and club CEO Billy Wood says he has still not given up hope of persuading the league authorities to resolve promotion and relegation issues on the basis of points per games played up to March, in which case they would start next season up in the Premier division.
Ben Pope (in white) in action for Hastings
PICTURE: Scott White
However, the reality is that the voiding of the season suits the majority of the clubs in the league and is most unlikely to be rescinded. And Mr Wood, to his credit, has been keeping a main eye on the need to prepare for a fresh campaign at whatever level is finally determined. In a recent interview with the Hastings Observer he said: “We are looking at players who will be important to us whether the season starts when it should, or in six months’ time. We don’t want to dwell on the negativity around us maybe not getting promotion, we want positivity; and we want fighters around us who can help us win and achieve our ambitions”.
Two key players from the prematurely ended season have already re-signed for the next: defender Gary Elphick and striker Ben Pope. Max Walsh, a teenager on the books of National League side Dartford who has made promising appearances for the ‘U’s’ under-23 team, has also agreed terms to join up.
There has been no report yet as to other performers in manager Chris Agutter’s team over the past couple of seasons, such as Adam Lovatt or Daniel Ajakaiye. However, a major boost to morale has come in the re-appointment of former club director Simon Rudkins as head groundsman. He departed last summer in unexplained circumstances, having previously won awards over several seasons for maintaining the quality of the pitch at Pilot Field. Whatever other difficulties the club may face in the next few months – and the finances of the game are likely to be under just as much pressure in lower leagues as higher up – that’s welcome news, and an indication that Mr Wood is aiming to rebuild from the ground up.
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