02:00PM, Friday 06 January 2017
First team coach Derek Sweetman claims the decision by Jeff Lamb, Paul McGrotty and himself to stand down from their roles at Ascot United had been on the cards for some time.
Manager Lamb, his assistant McGrotty and Sweetman informed the club of their intention to stand down at the end of November but the former Holyport boss says the die was cast when ‘80 per cent’ of the first team squad left just before the start of pre-season.
A squad that had been built and developed over five years was dismantled within ‘five minutes’, leaving the side short of experience for what has so far been an underwhelming Hellenic Premier Division season.
Sweetman doesn’t begrudge the players moving for money or the chance to go for promotion but, after years of success in the league and cup, the situation left the trio feeling they’d taken Ascot as far as they could.
“I think that this has been on the cards for a while,” said Sweetman. “In the summer we were getting everything in place for the season and then a week before it started 80 per cent of the squad moved on.
“It left us with a huge mountain to climb. We got out our black books and did the best we could but it was a mammoth task trying to replace these players at short notice.
“We said we’d take it game by game and see how far we could go, and we’ve done our best to put out competitive teams week in and week out, but they haven’t been of the standard of those in previous seasons.”
Under their leadership Ascot have had the most successful period in the club’s history. Since Jeff and Paul took over in May 2011 they’ve appeared in two FA Vase quarter finals, had three successive top four finishes in the Premier Division and have won both the league cup and Floodlit Cup. They currently sit 13th in the division.
“The decision was taken at the end of November that we’d taken the club as far as possible,” said Sweetman.
“Money was never the main issue. This is a good club with good people and there are restrictions on what we can and can’t do. We would never want to give them a problem that could stay with them for years and would never ask the club to overstretch itself.
“They have made a decision not to pay wages to players and instead will continue to nurture their fantastic youth set up.”
Sweetman added: “Jeff and Paul have spent five years pulling together a group of players and you can’t replace that in five minutes with no incentives. We just felt we’d taken the club as far forward as possible. Saturday at home to Royal Wootton Bassett will be our last game and it would be good to get a victory so we can go out with our heads held high.
“We haven’t spoken about what’s going to happen going forward. We’ll take a few weeks out and Jeff and Paul both have young families so their time is precious. But I’m sure they’ll look to get back into football if the right project comes along.”
Their last game in charge is at home to Royal Wootton Bassett tomorrow (Saturday).
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