Hayling set to be relegated

Steve Poulton has resigned as Hayling manager
Steve Poulton has resigned as Hayling manager
Baffins Milton Rovers found it tough against Portland. Picture: Ian Hargreaves

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Hayling United are bracing themselves for the shock of relegation from the Wessex League premier division.

For the past three years, the Humbugs have battled tirelessly to stay out of the bottom two and avoid the drop.

This season they achieved that with games to spare, finishing 16th – 22 points clear of second-from-bottom Romsey.

But the league look set to relegate them anyway because of ground grading issues at their Hayling College home.

Humbugs chairman, Ian Gollop, finds the situation ‘unbelievable’.

And the bad news comes just days after Steve Poulton quit as Hayling manager.

Gollop said: ‘We have received a letter from the league stating that, because of ground grading issues, we may still find ourselves relegated.

‘I don’t think they realise how much effort people put in at the club. They know we don’t have a lot of money and each season is a hand-to-mouth existence for us.

‘We knew we had to get things done by March 31 and on the day there was a team of 11 or 12 of us putting everything in place.

‘The rest of the path around the pitch was concreted and we know we have to move the dug-outs forward.

‘Our temporary fence on the far side of the pitch could be the problem but, because we play in a school, we are limited with what we can do.

‘It is ironic that after having our best season for a long time we could still end up being relegated.

‘It is unbelievable.’

Wessex League secretary, John Gorman, admitted Hayling were likely to be relegated in the new constitution that will be presented to clubs at next week’s annual general meeting.

The league, he explained, are acting upon Football Association recommendations aimed at maintaining the numerical levels within the non-league pyramid.

With Winchester City and Sholing dropping down from the Southern League – and with no clubs moving up from the Wessex premier for this term – the Wessex League have been left with a problem.

The FA are suggesting Alton Town move across to the Combined Counties League to solve Hayling’s problem.

‘We are not picking on Hayling,’ said Gorman.

‘Over the past few years we have bent over backwards to help them.

‘The problem is they can’t do everything they want to do because they play at a college ground. We have written to the club and warned them that this is likely to happen.’

The letter from the league arrived on the same day Poulton handed in his resignation.

The departing boss believes that, if Hayling are relegated, they will find it almost impossible to get back in the future.

In the meantime, the search for a new manager goes ahead and Gollop admits it not a job for the faint-hearted.

‘We are looking for someone to come in and take on one of the toughest jobs in local football,’ he said. ‘They will need to possess a strong mindset and be prepared to meet me halfway on things.

‘At the moment, we don’t even know which level we will be playing at.’