Hadleigh United boss Shane Wardley has admitted this week’s revelation that a maximum of four teams are set to be relegated from the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division has given them much-needed renewed hope of surviving.
A national restructure of the non-league pyramid at the end of this season, to standardise the National League Structure and cut down on travelling times, had led league officials to only say that ‘up to seven teams’ could be relegated at the end of this season.
With Hadleigh’s dismal run of nine games without a win — the latest a 6-0 thumping at Wroxham on Saturday — leaving them fourth-from-bottom and some 16 points adrift of eighth-from-bottom Long Melford, their future looked bleak.
But Thurlow Nunn League chairman Peter Hutchings’ clarification that ‘four teams are expected to go down’, published exclusively on the Free Press and sister title websites earlier this week, suddenly changes the picture for both Hadleigh and Long Melford.
“It’s definitely good for us,” said Warldley, whose side are currently four points off fifth-from-bottom.
“I sent a text to my assistant when I saw it and said it has been confirmed four are going down, so we can get out of this.
“We will be talking to the players at training on Wednesday night and telling them this is our target now.
“We cannot worry about other teams though, we just need to start picking up points rather quickly.”
Asked if it boosted his squad, Long Melford manager Jamie Bradbury said: “It does. But to be honest we feel confident it would not affect us anyway, with the way we are playing at the minute and the points we believe we can get on the board between now and the end of the season.
“You are always looking over your shoulder though. Potentially, it takes a little bit of competitive edge out of teams as they think they are safe.
“Until something is in black and white, we will keep plugging away.”
Thurlow Nunn League chairman Hutchings explained: “There will be 20 teams in the Premier Division next season so there will be four teams expected to go down.
“The restructure and plans come from the FA — it is their decision — and I understand they have now put out that no more than four teams will be relegated.
“I think there will probably also be some lateral movement from the league though, such as Saffron Walden to an Essex league, so seven teams could still be leaving the Premier Division but not through relegation.
“I think we have already told the various clubs of this development but we will also have a meeting in March to communicate it.”
Wardley, whose Hadleigh side are without a fixture until a week Saturday, at home to Stanway Rovers (3pm), is hoping to address what he sees as their main issues.
“Overall, we have a lack of experienced players in the squad and leaders,” he said.
“Our right-back Henry Croft is 16. He has done well but he has played the last 15 games and he should be coming on off the bench and once we have survived, getting a run of games to see how he copes.
“Since I took over, every week I have put in one, if not two, seven-day approaches for players.
“I will be talking to one that would be potentially a very good signing for us, if it comes off. I also have one or two irons in the fire.”
He added: “The lads’ heads are down because results are not going our way, but in our training sessions we are working on things and we will also be working hard over the next 10 days, talking to them to get some smiles back on faces.
“With the facilities we have here they should definitely be staying in that league. Hopefully we can achieve that and go again next season.”