PORTLAND JOIN WESSEX LEAGUE
Friday 15th June
The annual general meeting have accepted an application from Portland United for promotion to the Wessex League. Portland finished as runners-up in the Dorset Combination last season and presumably gain their place at the expense of Portsmouth RN, who finished bottom of the JWL last season, although this has not been confirmed. While this increases Dorset's representation in the JWL and provides fresh opposition for existing JWL clubs one has to wonder whether, following the chaotic fixture congestion of last season, there is merit in maintaining the existing 23 club structure to the league. One can only hope that Portland manage to provide stiffer resistance than previous Combination promotees Swanage, who managed to leak 20 goals in two matches against Andover last time round. Just as well the title wasn't decided on goal difference!!
FURTHER LINNETS SIGNINGS
Wednesday 13th June
A further Daily Echo reports reveals that the news of the Linnets' signing of two players from Bournemouth FC (see below) has not been the only transfer activity of the close season to date. Prior to the signing of the Poppies duo, manager Graham Kemp had apparently already completed the signings of striker Richard Glenister from Poole Town and defender Robbie Walker from AFC Totton.
Both players have appeared in Linnets colours before, with Glenister figuring in several first team matches at the beginning of last season as a result of injuries or suspensions to other players, before moving to Poole in search of regular 'first team action' where he played a major part in Poole's successful Hampshire League side. Graham Kemp's assessment is based on the fact that, having played as a defender against Glenister, he regards him as a player who "scores more than he misses" and that he is "not the sort of player I would want to play against myself".
Kemp's appraisal of Walker, who has also played for Bashley, is that "he is a player who always gives 100 per cent. He is another useful acquisition". Moving in the opposite direction to Walker is Linnets' stalwart Nigel Mottashed who has joined Totton after making well over 250 appearances in Blue and Red. Nigel will be a tough act to follow and I would like to wish him well for the future.
LINNETS SIGN YOUNG POPPIES
Tuesday 12th June
The Daily Echo today reports that Lymington & New Milton have signed two players from Bournemouth 'Poppies'. The pair are James Bailey-Pearce, a left midfield/striker, and Ross Drew, a utility player. This will be a blow to the Bournemouth club who are currently in disarray over the resignation of their football management executive in an apparent conflict with the limited company that effectively supports the team. Linnets' manager Graham Kemp is reported as saying that he rates the duo very highly and considers them to be the best youngsters in the Wessex League.
PHILLIPS' DISCIPLINE A POTENTIAL ISSUE
Despite apparent interest from several Doc Martens League clubs in the Linnets' leading marksman Leigh Phillips, including Dorchester, Salisbury and (inevitably) Bashley, it is thought that his disciplinary record may be considered a stumbling block. Phillips is still appealing two alleged stamping offences, having already collected a seven day ban for accumulated bookings. If found proven, the stamping charges could each carry a 35 day ban and this could be a significant deterrent to interested parties.
WESSEX LEAGUE - WHERE NOW?
Wednesday 30th May
After all the soul-searching at Fawcetts Field over the Linnets' decision not to seek elevation to the Doc Martens Southern League next season, comes news today that Wessex champions Andover have themselves officially declined promotion. This outcome was not wholly unexpected, having already been trailed on this page as well as in other sources.
What it does do is to bring into focus the structure of the non-league game and, in particular, the future status of the Wessex League. With the champions and runners-up currently unwilling to commit themselves to the significantly increased expenditure required to perform at Southern League level (and judging by comments emanating from other clubs, no-one else being in a position to do so in the forseeable future), the question must be asked of where that leaves the Wessex in the overall scheme of things.
Of course, time was when Lymington and New Milton were seperate clubs content to plough their individual furrows up and down the Hampshire League and, in the days before the non-league 'pyramid', no intermediate stage and no automatic rights of promotion, clubs (and often, players) were content to cross swords with other teams within a (reasonably) limited geographical area and where taking part was (almost) as important as winning. Nowadays, the reverse is more often the case.
Which brings us back to the Wessex. Essentially, the league was set up to provide the link between clubs from the Hampshire, East Dorset and South Wilts areas, playing in county league structures, with the Southern League. It has provided a share of upwardly mobile clubs, not least our neighbours Bashley but ironically, the last promotees were Andover themselves in 1997-98 when they finished runners-up to ourselves! They returned to the Wessex after one season citing finance as the main contributor to their decision.
This is not to suggest that such a move up is impossible but that clubs must think very carefully about committing themselves to such a process, as the recent turmoils about finance at Bashley have shown. Having said that, it would be most unfortunate if the Wessex was to become a 'dead-end' league with finance becoming an effective barrier to upward progress for the participant clubs. I don't have any easy answer to this seemingly tautologous situation except to hope that the Linnets' management are successful in the avowed intent on bringing in greater financial backing so that the club can overcome this hurdle prudently as well as successfully.
END OF SEASON VIEW
After all the debate concerning the possible link with Bashley, I was pleased to note that the Linnets' executive appear to be concentrating on the future of the club as a separate entity. Comments made at the club's recent annual awards dinner suggest as much with Denis Nash reflecting on the heritage of the parent clubs and the amount of hard work put in by all concerned to put the Linnets where they are today. He went on to say that this position should not be compromised :
"There has been a lot of commitment, dedication and hard work in providing football and associated activities for the local communities...but we must take a very prudent approach to another merger so close to the last." He went on to say, "Your executive committee will keep a very open mind. We will not be rushed or bullied into making any decision that may have a detrimental effect on the future stability of this club and put what we see as a very sound future into jeopardy."
This view was further bolstered by comments on the Bashley situation made by Terry Morris in which he pointed out that the club was not in thrall to any particular individual in terms of finance and that the constitution of the club was such that any decision on changing that status would have to be voted on by the membership in full.
Such issues aside it was pleasing to note the nature and recipients of the awards that were made, particularly the special presentation to Derek Binns. There was also apparently universal approval of the award of clubman of the year trophy to general secretary Pat Drake. Other awards in brief :
Supporter's player of the year : Stuart Kearn, First team manager's player : Brett Phillips, First team players' player : Mark Smith, Most improved player : Paul Gazzard, Young player of the year : Gareth Keeping, Second team manager's player : Pierluigi Florio, Second team players' player : Rob Christopher.
For my part I would like to applaud everyone for keeping the ship afloat through such a traumatic season. To have finished runners-up again in such circumstances does credit, in particular, to all involved in the first team. In such circumstances it is especially pleasing to note that all bar two of the senior squad have signed up for next season. Presumably one of those two was Stuart Hussey, who as we know, has already departed for the 'greener pastures' of Grigg Lane.
Finally, one of the pleasures of running a website is that you are able to express a personal opinion and as such I would just like to give a special 'website' award to Graham Kemp who, as well as being Mr. Consistent on the field, had the added pressure of managing first team affairs passed to him while all the speculation about promotion, merging etc. was going on. I know he wanted the job but it can't have been easy! Well done Graham and to all of the teams. Up the Linnets!
MERGER BY OSMOSIS ?
Thursday 24th May
I may be misinterpreting the signs but I hope that the continuing saga of the Bashley merger is not now happening by default. At an extraordinary general meeting held by Bashley last Tuesday, they were congratulating themselves at the recent appointment of a new chairman and a new manager (as previously reported below), but I was surprised to learn that Richard Millbery has also apparently joined their executive committee.
It is not clear whether Mr. Millbery has resigned his position on the Linnets' executive committee and if so, what this now means for the Linnets, having (presumably) lost Derek Binns from the executive already. Equally, if he has not left the club just what does that mean in terms of the future ?
STUART HUSSEY SIGNS FOR BROCK
Friday 18th May
Rather than talking about mergers perhaps we should be talking about Brockenhurst changing their name to the 'Alternative Lymington & New Milton'. Having signed so many players from us last season (I make it 9 in total but I must confess to having lost count!!), news comes today that Stuart Hussey, who only joined us from Totton last December, has also moved to our Forest neighbours. According to Brock manager Chris Collinge (who seems to have an opinion about everything, so I must check his views on the origins of the universe), Stuart believes he may get a better chance of finding his way back into professional football by playing for Brock, citing the example of Ben Thomson (who played for Brockenhurst for about 5 minutes before moving on to Bashley & Newport in rapid succession). Good luck Stuart.
BINNS & BASHLEY - "I JUST HAD TO HAVE A
Thursday 17th May
Well, well. So now we know. It has been reported today that Derek Binns HAS been persuaded to give Southern League football a try after all and it has been confirmed that he IS the new Bashley manager, following a variety of rumours that have circulated since he stepped down as the Linnets' boss. The move is apparently the result of efforts by David Malone, whose interest in the village club I reported on last week, who has himself been appointed as chairman of the Bash, replacing Ray Pinney.
Binns is quoted as saying : "It's a wrench to leave so many good people [at L&NM], but I've just got to have a go at a higher level. I'll give 100% to get Bashley back to where they should be - at the top" [!!]. The report says that Binns has no plans to "pillage" players from his old club but apparently said: "There's no reason why the two of us can't work together, particularly if there's an amalgamation in the pipeline. I'm not saying it will happen, but players can be dual-registered and we could have one big pool."
It is nice to hear Derek's views, although one must wonder at the future of Leigh Phillips who was apparently Bashley-bound before all this blew up, but it does raise more questions over the "merger" issue. If, for example, a player 'pool' was agreed, is this not just a form of merger by the back door? If such a form of co-operation were to exist, why not go the whole 'hog' and merge the clubs anyway?? Does anyone have any views on the subject? If so, you can contact me by e-mail at email@example.com - I would be most interested in your comments.
MERGER - 'PLAN TO SECURE INDEPENDENT BASHLEY
Thursday 10th May
A report today by the Daily Echo provides an explanation for Bashley's announcement that they will not be pursuing the merger with Lymington & New Milton for next season, as I reported previously. The report says that a 'package' is being prepared by a Winchester based businessman, David Malone, to "secure the financial future of Bashley Football Club". Apparently Mr. Malone was instrumental in recommending that the merger should not take place for the time being and is reported as saying "Both clubs have certain difficulties and I couldn't see that the immediate solution was to put two clubs with difficulties together."
I have to confess that my immediate reaction was to go and lie down in a darkened room. I was not aware that the Linnets had any "difficulties" beyond having announced that they did not feel that their current financing was strong enough to justify seeking promotion to the Doc Martens League, a situation that the newly-crowned Wessex League champions, Andover, as well as other Wessex clubs like Totton also seem to consider to be a difficult step. The only reasons for the Bashley merger (that I can see) were :
1. To get Ray Pinney off the hook from subsiding the Bashley club.
2. To put the Linnets (or whatever a merged club might be called) into the Doc Martens league - a position they were entitled to seek regardless of any merger!
Mr. Malone apparently runs an offshore investment company and is hopeful that Ray Pinney will continue to finance Bashley and then possibly join a "small group of potential investors interested in taking Bashley forward." He goes on to say: "the unique reputation [!] of Bashley kindled my interest. It is a football institution that is known and respected throughout the country [sic]."
No doubt once the 'group of investors' have sorted the finances out we will then see another 'package' involving an application by the club to convert the Recreation Ground into a 25,000 all-seater stadium with adjacent office and leisure complex and if this is rejected by the local council the club will doubtless have no option but to relocate and seek a merger with another club with appropriate facilities - how about AFC Bournemouth (they could do with the money) - which would also provide entry into the Nationwide League. Why, in a few years time they could be looking at possible European Champions League qualification and an opportunity to expand that 'unique reputation' across the Continent!
Cynicism aside, presumably the merger issue is now well and truly dead. Can we now get on with just being a successful Wessex League club with ambitions of our own?
BASHLEY - MERGER NOT ON FOR NEXT
Monday 7th May
News has reached me that it was announced at Bashley's home game last Saturday that no merger with the Linnets would take place for next season and that 'The Bash' would continue to be 'an independent club' playing in the Doc Martens Southern League. This appears to be somewhat out of line with previous comments emanating from the Bashley camp wherein it was suggested that a merger could be (and by implication, should be) completed in plenty of time for the next campaign.
To be fair, the view from Fawcetts Field on the issue has been much more a case of 'softly, softly, catchee monkey' with chairman Terry Morris appearing to be either 'hot' or 'cold' on the subject, depending on whose report you read. However, this latest development - assuming that it is correct - puts the process into a different context since it raises the question of 'if not before next season - then when ?' and that is assuming you have already come up with a satisfactory answer to the more fundamental question of 'why?!!'
In my previous comments on the matter I put forward the theory that the whole idea was merely a contrivance to allow Bashley's main financial benefactor to withdraw his funding without being seen to have 'killed the club off' and this seemed to be supported by comments from the Bashley side. Lets face it, anyone who has followed the local football scene for any length of time knows that Bashley are a club that have been 'bankrolled' to success through the Hampshire, Wessex and ultimately Southern Leagues (even to the threshold of reaching the Conference), during a period when their nickname would more appropriately have been 'The Dosh' (at least compared to the 'poor local relatives' in New Milton, Lymington, Brockenhurst etc.).
This is not to disparage their past successes but if the Bashley club is now in decline because the funding will no longer be available to sustain 'former glories' then it should find a level commensurate with its resources and as Terry Morris has already said, it is not for the Linnets to bail them out. If this is not the case, why merge with L&NM anyway? The apparent deferral of the merger question is intriguing - a case for a statement of intent perhaps?
KEMP "DEVASTATED" AS LINNETS LOSE AT
Friday April 27th
Graham Kemp tasted defeat in the league for the first time as Linnets' player-manager last night and admitted that he was "devastated" after hearing that title rivals Andover had only managed to draw with Brockenhurst. He went on to describe his team's performance as "gutless" while being quick to praise his opponents' effort ; "Fair play to Christchurch, they wanted it more than us."
A win for the Linnets might have thrown the title race back into the melting pot but Andover now look to have an unassailable lead at the top. Kemp could not contain his disappointment, "I have praised the boys recently for what they have done but they let me down. They are paid to play and they didn't. If they didn't want to perform for themselves, they should have performed for me and the club. There was no pride and no guts - we totally under-achieved."
While sharing his disappointment at the outcome, it should be seen in context. This was the first league defeat the Linnets have suffered since last October and came at the end of a run of six wins and two draws in the first three weeks of April as the fixture congestion unravels. In fact the Linnets, in common with most Wessex clubs, have been facing a fixture list that would have Premier League managers reaching for the tranquillisers. Even Andover have suffered a slight dip in their otherwise imperious form this week. In truth, too much ground was lost when the club could only garner three successive draws back at the beginning of March, while Andover were busy winning - it is that gap that the Linnets have been trying to make up ever since.
I admire Graham's fighting spirit in pursuing what appeared to be 'mission impossible' and share in his disappointment at the probable outcome. This is where his managerial qualities will be tested as he attempts to lift spirits and play out the season with some pride and an eye to the next campaign.
KEMP - WE CAN STILL WIN THE
Monday April 23rd
I have to say that I appreciate Graham Kemp's style. After speaking optimistically last week about the Linnets prospects for next season, I am pleased to note that he hasn't given up on this season yet. After pursuing Andover for so long with no real sign of catching them, a small chink of light has appeared in their title effort. With the Lions dropping points last Saturday for the first time since they visited Fawcetts Field, while the Linnets continued their excellent recent away form with a win at Hamble; the return fixture at Andover tomorrow night takes on a slightly different complexion. It is a very big ask to expect the Linnets to come away with anything from 'Fortress Portway' - where the Lions have not yielded a single point all season - especially in the absence of leading scorer Leigh Phillips; but a win there would certainly re-open the title race. With second place virtually mathematically assured, it really is a case of nothing ventured etc. - so, go for it lads!
KEMP OPTIMISTIC ABOUT NEXT
Monday April 16th
Linnets player-manager Graham Kemp believes that he will go into next season with the majority of the current squad still available. If, after all the upheavals of recent months, this proves to be true; then it will be a big boost for the club and a vote of confidence in Kemp as he makes the transition from team captain to manager. Graham has been quoted as saying: "I have played with most of them for many years and know them. They can see that I have stayed loyal and I hope that they will too".
In an apparent change of heart, Kemp intends to continue playing next season - which is good news for the club and bad news for opposing attackers - but he will be looking for a replacement for himself as club captain. This season's reserve team boss, Paul Morrell, will become Kemp's assistant on the touchline and will apparently give the match-day team talks. Of Morrell, who has the considerable experience of over 400 appearances as a professional at AFC Bournemouth, Kemp says: " everyone respects him and what he has to say."
GAZZARD INJURY - OUT FOR REMAINDER OF
Monday April 16th
It is reported by the Daily Echo today that Paul Gazzard, who injured a knee in last Tuesday's league match at B.A.T., will miss the remainder of the season and could be out of action for as much as four months in all. The Linnets' defender, who has been in excellent form this season, twisted his right knee in a 'block' tackle and was immediately taken to hospital; where possible cruciate ligament damage was diagnosed. If this proves correct, it is likely that Paul will require surgery to correct the problem. We wish him well and hope that he is able to make a complete recovery in the fullness of time.
FIXTURES - DESPERATELY SEEKING
Monday April 9th
The fixture issue remains unresolved following an executive committee meeting of the Wessex League last Friday. Instead it is to be put to the vote- an Extraordinary General Meeting involving the Chairmen of all the league's clubs has been called for April 22nd - so the decision is in the club's hands. Interestingly, the Hampshire League has just voted to extend their season until the 31st May with a number of options over how remaining fixtures can be dealt with. Any games not completed by the extended deadline will count as 0-0 draws with each club receiving one league point. In the meantime clubs have the opportunity to play 'double-headers' where two clubs have not yet met in the league, or to reverse the location if one side's pitch continues to be unplayable. Perhaps similar imagination can be applied to resolving the Wessex situation, rather than talking of scrapping the Combination.
Thursday April 5th
With the Wessex League having now apparently bowed to the inevitable, by expecting to extend the First Division season into the second week of May, comes news that the league are considering abandoning the Combination championship altogether. Already wrestling with an unprecedented number of matches to reschedule and with the weather still causing postponements to games that have only recently been rearranged, a sense of desperation has crept into the process.
The thinking is that with many teams suffering a backlog of Combination fixtures as well as their outstanding First Division ones, that club pitches are going to take a pounding over the next few weeks with as many as four (or more) matches having to be played on pitches that are already the worse for wear after being turned into 'mud-flats' through so much rain. The league are due to convene tomorrow night but League Secretary Tom Lindon admits that it looks bleak for reserve teams : "It already looks like we will definitely be extending the season into the second week of May. But we also have a bigger concern and that is with the Combination. Cancelling the Combination now will not necessarily save us any time in which to play games but it will ease the pressure on pitches".
It is difficult to dispute this view but it will be a shame for those involved in the Combination if all their efforts for the season now come to nothing. The Linnets' reserves have done pretty well to maintain a top-six position in the league despite demands being made on their resources by first team injuries and suspensions as well as sometimes having to face opponents whose sides have been bolstered by first team players called into action because of postponements to their fixtures.
MERGER - BASHLEY SAY 'OUR FINANCES ARE IN
Monday April 2nd
Responding to reported comments by Linnets chairman Terry Morris concerning their financial situation, vice-chairman Fred Pingram has said : "Bashley's finances are in order. Our only debts are normal running expenses such as telephone and electricity. If you go back a couple of years, Bashley owed £80,000 and there were threats of the bailiffs coming in, but all that has been cleared thanks to Mr. Pinney [Bashley's former chairman], who remains at this club both as a supporter and a financial backer".
Mr. Pingram then went on to make a comment which confirmed my own thoughts about the situation : "Mr. Pinney does not want to be seen as the man who takes football away from the Recreation Ground, but he will be very happy if the merger happens". According to Mr. Pingram, Ray Pinney has been in favour of a union with Lymington & New Milton for many years (!) but is reluctant to be the figurehead of the plan. Long-term he apparently believes amalgamation is the common sense way forward for both clubs.
A cynic might interpret this as being evidence of Mr. Pinney's desire to withdraw his financial backing without being castigated as the man who 'killed' Bashley off, an intention for which a merger with the Linnets would provide an ideal solution. That aside, he may well have a point about the pragmatic side of the proposal. Clearly a town of the size of New Milton (because let's face it, irrespective of the name and the continued use of 'Lymington' to describe the club, it is based in New Milton and a merger with Bashley would merely strengthen that identity) could realistically only support one senior club and so the argument may have merits.
However, I do believe that the proposal should be looked at from all perspectives, including the ownership/funding of any merged entity and not simply as a way of propelling the Linnets into the Southern League by the back door. Since the club has already withdrawn its own application for promotion because of financial concerns, simply 'piggy-backing' into a higher league does not, of itself, make sense. It is to be hoped that the club's executive commitee will consider the idea very carefully indeed.
KEMP STEPS UP TO MANAGER'S
Saturday March 31st
Following an earlier than expected decision by Derek Binns to relinquish control of the team he has guided so successfully for nearly seven years; manager-in-waiting Graham Kemp stepped up to his new role in time for the Linnets' home league match against Christchurch. Kemp was not originally scheduled to move into the 'hot seat' until the close season and no 'official' reason has been given so far for Binns' decision. It may be that the rumours concerning a possible merger with Bashley has forced the pace and Binns was quick to comment on the subject: "If we do merge with Bashley, Graham will still be manager and, hopefully, I can work alongside him". Certainly it makes perfect sense to me to allow Kemp to 'find his feet' (if that is the right expression for a player-manager!) before having to deal with any off-field negotiations. Yours truly would like to wish Graham the very best of luck for the future and to thank Derek for his outstanding efforts at the helm.
BASHLEY MERGER - BOTH CLUBS
Thursday March 29th.
What had previously been a rumour, if a well-informed one, that the Linnets were considering a merger with Bashley; is now official in that both clubs have admitted that they are considering the idea. The possible outcome of such deliberations, however, depends on which set of smoke signals you are trying to interpret.
Linnets' chairman Terry Morris confirmed that, following an executive commitee meeting on Tuesday, the club had agreed to consider the pros and cons of such a move but he was very careful to stress that nothing had been decided : "We have simply held talks as to the merits of doing a merger. By no means are we merging at this stage. Before we go any further, we want to see whether it would be feasible to merge and in that respect, Bashley would have to meet certain criteria ."
Those criteria apparently include, as an absolute, a guaranteed clean bill of financial health for Bashley. There is no doubt that the recent rumours have been fired, in part, by the news that Bashley's chairman and significant financial backer, Ray Pinney, had quit the club. Although the acting chairman, Fred Pingram, has been at pains to point out that Mr. Pinney had not withdrawn his financial backing; he did admit that the situation was unclear and that the club was experiencing "a slight problem with cashflow".
This uncertainty is clearly a concern to the Linnets' executive and Terry Morris made their position plain by saying : "If an individual is pulling out of Bashley and they need a financial crutch to prop them up, then it won't be us. We withdrew our Southern League application as it would have been too much of a financial burden and, if Bashley's main source of revenue is going to be severed, then amalgamation is simply not an option. The way our club feels is that we are financially stable and I believe we will get into the Southern League within two years. This would just be a shortcut."
This is in sharp contrast to the view expressed by Bashley general secretary Barry Hughes : "We see the merger as common sense. New Milton is a small town and both clubs are vying for the same fans and sponsors." He also expressed an opinion that fans and businesses don't know which of the teams to support and that the area was not big enough to support two ambitious clubs. Mr. Hughes, who is also vice-chairman of the Southern League, went on to suggest that it would make sense for any merger to progress quickly : "The League would probably want this tied up by mid-May if it was going to happen," before conceding that "both clubs would have 'heavy hearts' about losing their individual identities."
With Lymington Town FC having assumed the mantle of representatives of that town and Mr. Hughes implication that New Milton was the main geographic focus, as if locals need to be told, the case for a New Milton FC seems to strengthen at each stage of the process. Anyone with views on the subject are welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org - will there be many 'heavy hearts' as Mr. Hughes suggests?
RUMOURS CIRCULATE ON
POSSIBLE BASHLEY MERGER
Friday March 23rd.
It may be that people are putting two and two together and making five, but the recent news of troubles at local neighbours Bashley may be at the root of a news story today in the Daily Echo concerning a possible merger between Lymington & New Milton and the Doc Marten's League side.
Linnets' chairman Terry Morris is reported as saying that although talk of a merger was pure speculation, he was prepared to admit that it is a proposition that the club could be interested in pursuing. Adding further fuel to that fire is the news that Mr. Morris has called a meeting of the club's executive commitee for next week to discuss the matter openly. He is reported as saying : "No one has spoken to me about it and I want to know where the rumours are coming from. I have called a meeting for next week to talk about it. We can then either put this thing to bed or say let's pursue it, but I cannot stress enough that is all pure speculation and rumour at this stage."
Bashley's future has been under close scrutiny following the announcement that club chairman and financial backer Ray Pinney had resigned his position with the club. This event apparently preceded the recent sacking of manager Barry Blankley but only came to public attention following Blankley's description of the circumstances surrounding his dismissal. Further cause for speculation was created when Bashley's commercial manager, Trevor Senior, was offered the vacant manager's position but declined and then resigned from his existing role; citing uncertainties regarding the club's future as the reason for his actions. Although it is understood that Mr. Pinney has not withdrawn his financial backing to date, Bashley's general secretary admitted earlier this week that future of the club would not be resolved until a meeting with Mr. Pinney had taken place in the near future.
Put this news in the context of Lymington & New Milton's widely reported decision to withdraw their application to join the Doc Marten's League and it is not difficult to see why the rumours might start. Intriguingly though, Terry Morris is also reported as saying : "We merged AFC Lymington and New Milton in 1998 and this has proved very successful and if both ourselves and Bashley felt it was worth doing, there's no reason why it can't be successful." He apparently then went on to say, "I think both clubs would benefit and it would promote a better class of football. Of course it would also provide us with a quicker route into the Southern League."
It is easy to quote words out of context and I may be guilty of doing just that but as the old saying goes - there's no smoke without fire. Quite what the result of any such amalgamation might be called is anyone's guess but for what it is worth, given the location of the ground and the geographical proximity of the existing clubs - I believe New Milton FC has certain ring to it !!
FIXTURE BACKLOG CONTINUES TO
Saturday 17th March.
So, with the cancellation of the Fareham match, another weekend passes by with the club unable to fulfill it's scheduled league fixture due to the weather. Meantime up in "sunny" North Hampshire, Andover go on piling on the points (and goals) while the rest of us contemplate our navels (or next season anyway). Joking apart, the situation is becoming a desperate one for the Wessex League, who are still looking to shoe-horn a massive backlog of fixtures into the remaining six weeks of the current season. Fixture secretary Malcolm Watts continues to do his passable impersonation of King Canute while insisting that the season should not be extended; but for some clubs (including the Linnets, who have 15 games to accomodate in that time), it is difficult to see how it can be avoided.
ALL OVER BAR THE SHOUTING ? - PART
Monday 12th March.
With the Linnets shortly to go into action against Havant & Waterlooville in their Hants Senior Cup Semi-Final, I thought it would be timely to point out that they are wasting their time! According to the recently launched Hants F.A. web-site, the final is already scheduled for Tue. May 1st at The Dell........between Eastleigh and Havant! This is before either semi-final has been played! I think Andover may like to join with us in issuing a loud raspberry to that or do they know something that we don't - I think we should be told!!
ALL OVER BAR THE SHOUTING ?
Ordinarily, I have been in the habit of summarising events on a month by month basis but so much seems to have happened in the last six weeks that it is difficult to know where to start - so for those not entirely up to date - see the events as they are detailed in previous sections.
In brief, the disappointment of the club's announcement that it will not be seeking promotion to the Southern League was temporarily overcome by victory over league leaders Andover and the real possibility that the club would be able to overtake their rivals in their attempt to claim another Wessex League title. Then further disappointment with the news that Manager Derek Binns, whose track record with the club has been one of unparalled success at Wessex League level, had decided to step down. This was mitigated by the club's decision to appoint Graham Kemp as his successor and the news that Binns would continue to be involved in the club's continued striving for success.
However, with the club seemingly having managed to steer itself through stormy waters both on and off the field, the fixture backlog began to bite. First up, the visit of our old rivals Wimborne Town results in the club's first drawn league fixture of the season. Then, rather like London buses, along come two more drawn matches in quick succession including a goal-less affair at Whitchurch which was the first time in twenty games that the club had failed to score. This may have been partly due to the absence from these fixtures of leading marksman Leigh Phillips, serving a seven day suspension for bookings collected last October! We should not dwell on Mr. Binns' views of the Hants F.A.'s disciplinary process since the club may already be in their bad books! Phillips' absence also served to highlight the difficulty the club faces in replacing him if, as previously reported, he leaves at the end of the season.
And now the fixture pile-up continues with further bad weather leading to the abandonment of the Christchurch away fixture while the schedule is already loading towards three games a week with some fixtures still to be accomodated. So, with a nine-point deficit to make up in the league and an very tough Hants Cup Semi-Final against Havant to negotiate, it will be remarkable if the club is able to progress further this season. All one can ask is that we adopt the same positive outlook characterised by Birmingham City supporters in their recent Cup Final confrontation with Liverpool and "Keep right on to the end of the Road".
KEMP TO BE NEW LINNETS BOSS
The club have announced the appointment of Derek
Binns' successor and, confirming earlier rumours, the post will go to current
player/coach and club captain, Graham Kemp (pictured
Kemp, who has played over 400 games for the Linnets and
has been ever present this season, has told the club that he does not intend
playing next season. However, club chairman Terry Morris is hoping that he will
reverse this decision, "It's Graham's choice but I personally think it would be
a bit of a waste."
The appointment will take effect at the end of this season, following current manager Derek Binns' decision to stand down at that stage. Binns himself has pledged to stay with the club, possibly as Director of football and will no doubt continue to maintain a close working relationship with Kemp, established over the past five years.
BINNS : I WILL STEP DOWN AT THE END OF THE
Clarification came this week concerning the future of Derek Binns when he confirmed that he would be stepping down at the end of the season after six and half years of managing the Linnets. This follows his well publicised disappointment at the club's decision not to seek promotion to the Southern League as covered below. Despite this decision, Mr. Binns confirmed that he was not leaving the club saying, "We have all worked too hard to walk away. There's plenty of other work to do here."
Speculation has immediately started as to the identity of his successor with rumours circulating that club captain and player-coach Graham Kemp was about to be handed the job. Chairman Terry Morris has moved quickly to put a hold on such speculation by maintaining that the subject still has to be discussed by the club's executive committee and that therefore no decision has been reached. He explained, "We're not planning to advertise the position because there are too many good candidates within the club." He further went on to say that the commitee would look for recommendations from Derek Binns and that following that, the decision would be taken.
NOW ANDOVER FIND COSTS OF PROMOTION TOO MUCH
Following the Linnets' surprise withdrawal of their Southern League application, league leaders Andover have dropped another bombshell on promotion from the Wessex League in revealing that, without additional sponsorship, they will not be able to afford the leap to the Dr. Martens sponsored league. Manager Ken Cunningham-Brown, whose own company currently provides the bulk of the club's sponsorship, said: "We are not saying for sure that we are not going up, but if we were to go into the Southern League without the money we would only struggle again."
Uncredited notes supplied by Andover regarding their club history in the recent match programme for the Linnets game against the Lions said : "...it didn't take the club long to realise that they couldn't compete against the likes of Margate & Chelmsford and it was no surprise that at the beginning of the year, the club announced it's intentions to return to the Jewson Wessex League for the 1999/00 season." As far as the players were concerned, Mr. Cunningham-Brown said: "We didn't make any promises to them about promotion."
LEIGH PHILLIPS TO JOIN BASHLEY ?
It seems almost certain that the club's current leading goalscorer will join Bashley - but not until next season. Leigh has committed himself to the Linnets for the remainder of this season following speculation that Doc Marten's League sides Bashley and Dorchester had shown an interest in the player. This interest comes off the back of the club's announcement that it was not pursuing it's application to join the DML at the end of this season. Manager Derek Binns had already confirmed that the club would not stand in the way of any players seeking to move to a higher level if they wished. It is understood that the response of the team has been to pledge themselves to the club for the remaining matches in pursuit of the club's title ambitions.
JEWSON WESSEX FIXTURES IN CHAOS
Wessex League clubs face the prospect of playing three games a week as League officials try to sort out the mounting problem of fitting the remaining fixtures, which exceed 250 matches, into the remaining 11 weeks of the season - and that is just the First Division. A similar number of Combination fixtures also require rescheduling. One step towards resolving the chaos has been taken by cancelling the League and combination Cup competitions, which had previously been suspended. The League has yet to discuss the possibility of extending the season because according to League fixture secretary Malcolm Watts, "The winter having been so wet, many clubs will need to carry out major pitch repairs and will need time to do it."
HANTS F.A. CALLS FOR CLUB SUBMISSION ON NEWPORT GAME
Both the Linnets and their quarter final opponents Newport (IoW) have been asked by the Hampshire F.A. to submit their observations on their Hants Senior Cup match, played at Fawcett's Field on February 1st. The game (see match report) was reported to be an ill-tempered one in which six players were booked and one sent off, while there was alleged to have been an off-the-field incident involving representatives from the two clubs. In the club programme for the following fixture against Andover, an attempt was made to play down the affair in suggesting that reports of the atmosphere in which the game had been played were exaggerated. However, both clubs could face misconduct charges if the Hants F.A. decide to take the matter further.
BINNS : TOO SOON TO DECIDE ABOUT NEXT SEASON
The latest reports suggest that Derek Binns has not yet made any decision over his future as manager of the club; following the disappointment of learning that the club's executive had decided to withdraw the Linnets' application to joint the Southern League (see below). However, he has said that he would not stand in the way of any player who may be offered the chance of higher league football with another club.
Binns has been quoted as saying that he could not imagine managing for another season at Wessex League level but he has subsequently sought to clarify that statement by suggesting that it did not necessarily mean he would leave the club. He has apparently even gone so far as to say that he would consider staying on if assurances were forthcoming that the finance would be place for a promotion push next season.
In their first match following the announcement of the application withdrawal, the team notched a notable Hants Senior Cup victory over Southern League Newport (IoW) in an ill-tempered match. Since then however, the weather seems to have resumed it's efforts to disrupt the entire season by causing the cancellation of the next two Wessex League matches. And this just as the club has been busy agreeing revised fixture dates for many of the matches already postponed this season.
CLUB WITHDRAWS DOC
MARTENS LEAGUE APPLICATION
The news was broken to the players on Saturday
immediately after they had achieved their highest scoring win of the season -
an 8-1 defeat of Downton - which keeps the club in second place in the league.
Manager Derek Binns said "The players are obviously disappointed. They are a
good and loyal bunch of lads. They know that the immediate priority is to try
to win the Wessex League championship title."
Emphasising the financial nature of the decision, Terry Morris went on to say, "Playing in the Dr. Martens League will be a very expensive operation - substantially more than the Wessex League - and our committee felt we simply didn't have the finances in place to go ahead with the application."
The news will be a blow to Derek Binns, who has been reshaping his squad with one eye on the future and his immediate reaction was to say that he "wanted time to digest the situation".
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