Hawks deny alleged Ritchie approach

Hawks chairman Derek Pope with new vice chairman Jim Fallon  Picture: Dave Haines
Hawks chairman Derek Pope with new vice chairman Jim Fallon Picture: Dave Haines
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The Hawks have strenuously denied allegations they have illegally approached AFC Totton boss Stuart Ritchie regarding their vacant managerial position.

Stags boss Ritchie has been heavily linked with the job, along with Liam Daish, Frank Gray and Lee Bradbury, following Shaun Gale’s Westleigh Park departure last weekend.

Hawks chairman Derek Pope and new vice chairman Jim Fallon – who recently resigned from his role at Totton – are currently leading the search for a successor for Gale.

They will have been impressed as the Blue Square Bet South strugglers saw off League One Bournemouth 3-2 in a friendly last night.

But according to departing AFC Totton chairman Sean Whelan, alleged contact has already been made with Ritchie and a number of the Southern League premier division outfit’s players.

That led to Whelan allegedly reporting the Hawks to the Football Association.

However, Hawks secretary Trevor Brock has been quick to pour cold water on the allegations.

He stated that no contact had yet been made with anyone regarding the Westleigh Park hot seat.

‘Categorically, I can state that the club have made no approaches to anyone to be our new manager,’ he said.

‘All we are doing at the moment is collecting applications.

‘We have heard nothing from the Football Association so there is nothing we can comment on.

‘It is like being reported to the police and not being told what for.

‘We will just have to wait and see what turns up.’

As the Hawks’ search for a new manager continues, caretaker boss Steve Johnson dedicated his side’s victory over Bournemouth last night to Gale.

Goals from Alex Baldacchino, Scott Jones and Christian Nanetti earned the home side victory, with former Hawk Wes Fogden scoring on his return to Westleigh Park for the visitors.

Johnson was impressed with the commitment shown by his side and hopes the result will give them confidence in their bid to beat the drop.

‘It’s not been an easy few days for all of us but we were all determined to go out there and do it for Shaun Gale,’ said Johnson.

‘Shaun came in beforehand and said his goodbyes to the players and our challenge now is to get over the finishing line for him.

‘The game was a very useful exercise and we got the performance we expected from the players.

‘This gives us a lot of confidence going in to our important next few games.’

Fogden wasted little time making an impact against his former employers as he set up the first Bournemouth goal on four minutes.

Four minutes later, though, Baldacchino equalised.

He fired Ollie Palmer’s low cross in at the far post, before Steve Gregory’s 28th-minute thunderbolt restored the Cherries’ lead.

In a strong finish, Jones levelled for the Hawks again with a header.

And Nanetti sealed the win, smashing his penalty low into the corner four minutes from time.