Hawks boss refutes misconduct claims

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Stuart Ritchie refuted claims of misconduct after he was sacked as Hawks boss.

Alongside his assistant manager Barry Blankley, the ex-AFC Totton manager was dismissed from the Westleigh Park helm yesterday.

The move followed a Blue Square Bet South reverse at the hands of Weston-super-Mare and an embarrassing FA Cup exit to North Leigh of the south & west division of the Southern League.

While vice-chairman Jim Fallon cited poor results as a key factor in their exit, he also reckoned they had not turned up to take training last Thursday night.

The Hawks chief claimed this showed a lack of application and was a breach of the club’s disciplinary code.

But Ritchie said the board was aware of the reasons behind his absence – as he prepared to take his partner’s son to university.

Meanwhile, Blankley insisted he was present and working with the first-team squad.

‘The club knew all about my situation,’ said Ritchie.

‘With my partner’s son going to university on Friday, they knew I would not be there.

‘Barry Blankley was at training and therefore it was not an issue.

‘We prepared the team for the FA Cup tie but they did not perform on the day.’

Assistant boss Blankley added: ‘I took the training and physio Phil Ashwell took the warm up.

‘I went through the set-pieces with the players.’

Fallon, however, was adamant removing the pair from the Hawks hot-seat was the correct decision.

‘Things were getting worse – not better,’ claimed the vice-chairman, who was on his way to a business meeting in Manchester on Tuesday before turning around in Stoke and coming back for the game.

‘It is disappointing. We thought they were the right people for the job but things have not been right.

‘Last Thursday they did not to turn up to take training – 48 hours before an important FA Cup game.

‘We see that as misconduct, breaching the club’s disciplinary code regarding training.

‘We believe it shows a distinct lack of application.

‘And if you are not prepared to lead by example, then how can you expect the players to respond?

‘Not setting the players up right was a big contributory factor to us going out of the FA Cup.

‘We will do whatever is necessary to improve morale and regain direction.’