Havant & Waterlooville face Barnet in final National League match as they look to regroup after timing of Bradbury exit took everyone by surprise
The Hawks end their ill-fated first-ever season in the Vanarama National League against Barnet at Westleigh Park on Saturday (12.30pm).
Assistant-manager Shaun Gale will lead the team after the departure of boss Lee Bradbury earlier this week.
It was the timing of Bradbury’s exit, two games before the end of the season, that took everyone by surprise.
The evidence suggests this included the manager himself.
After Monday’s game at Aldershot Bradbury was talking about preparing for the final week of the season.
Ever since relegation was confirmed he insisted he was determined to get the Hawks back into the National League.
It seems therefore when he drove away from the Recreation Ground after the game resigning as manager was not on his agenda.
The situation changed very quickly in the next few hours.
Chairman Derek Pope contacted Bradbury asking to meet and the two got together later that evening.
What happened at that meeting is unclear but at the end of it Bradbury’s seven-year reign had come to an end.
The question on most fans lips is ‘was Bradbury pushed or did he jump?’
Chances are a combination of both is the most likely though it is understood Bradbury was hugely disappointed.
Mutual consent was the official line announced by the club.
It has been a tough season at the club as they tried to come to terms with top level non-league football.
Since Christmas Pope has become increasingly disappointed with results.
It all came to a head with a desperately poor Easter weekend.
On Good Friday he watched the team throw away a three-goal lead against Ebbsfleet.
Then against fellow strugglers Aldershot they lost 2-0 after another poor display.
It looks as if this proved to be the tipping point.
Pope and Bradbury have always had a good close working relationship with a great mutual respect for each other.
It is known, however, that Pope wasn’t happy when Bradbury applied for the vacant manager’s post at Hartlepool United half-way through the season.
Bradbury travelled to the north-east for an interview and seemed keen on the opportunity.
He didn't get the job but things weren’t quite the same afterwards.
Pope now faces the challenge of finding a replacement as the Hawks prepare to return to the National League South.
Some names have already been linked. These include ex- Sutton United and Eastleigh manager Paul Doswell and Worthing boss Adam Hinshelwood.
Pope also has to decide whether the new face coming in will continue to manage a part -time team or whether the club will go full-time.
At present Pope refuses to divulge his plans.