Pope: Exciting new era starts now

New Hawks boss Stuart Ritchie  Picture: Dave Haines
New Hawks boss Stuart Ritchie Picture: Dave Haines
Steve Hutchings scored twice for Moneysfields in their league win today. Picture: Neil Marshall

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Chairman Derek Pope welcomed new manager Stuart Ritchie to the Hawks before warning their Blue Square Bet South rivals: Now watch us grow.

Pope and vice-chairman Jim Fallon unveiled Ritchie and his assistant Sean New to fans who turned out in force to welcome them to the club.

The duo have signed two-year contracts with the Hawks, after leaving Southern League premier division AFC Totton following their failure to win promotion via the play-offs.

And Pope believes their arrivals heralds the beginning of an exciting new era at Westleigh Park.

‘What they (Ritchie and New) have achieved at AFC Totton over the past eight years has been remarkable,’ said Pope.

‘They took them from Wessex League also-rans to the brink of Conference South football.

‘In all those years they were never out of the top four.

‘They are winners and that’s what we need at this moment in time.

‘Both know that we need to be at the top end of the table – not the bottom and not the middle.

‘Everything is in place to take the club forward.

‘There will be an increased budget which will allow new players to be brought in, and we have no doubt we have the right people to do the job.’

Ritchie and New face a huge challenge after the Hawks, who parted company with former manager Shaun Gale in March, only avoided relegation on the final day of the season.

The Hawks, with caretaker boss Steve Johnson in charge, were heading for the Blue Square Bet South trapdoor until Joe Dolan’s goal three minutes into stoppage time earned them a priceless home win against Staines.

That day had everyone associated with the club living in fear as relegation looked likely.

However, Fallon, who worked with Ritchie and New at Totton, believes those days can now be a thing of the past following last night’s appointment.

‘Stuart and Sean are a team who have worked together for eight years and that is what we need,’ said Fallon.

‘Our aim is to attain Conference Premier football – and as quickly as possible.

‘I urge fans to go out and buy their season tickets because they have a large part to play in our future success.

‘We are determined to bring exciting, entertaining, winning football to Westleigh Park.

‘It is a huge job but I don’t think local football fans realise just how big this club is and could be.

‘Conference Premier football isn’t cheap but we are, as a club at the moment, completely debt free.

‘We are in a position where we expect to go onto bigger and better things.’