10:27AM, Thursday 07 May 2020
Ascot United manager Jamie Tompkins accepts the health and safety of the nation is paramount as the country looks to get to grips with the coronavirus, however, he feels the FA acted far too hastily in declaring all football from non league steps three and down null and void.
It’s fair to say the Yellamen were on course for promotion as champions from the Combined Counties Premier Division. In fact, they had one hand on the title with the club sitting 11 points clear of their closest challengers when the season was brought to its abrupt conclusion.
Tompkins would have loved to have seen more joined up thinking, from the Premier League down to the lower levels of non league football.
Instead, the FA moved to call off their league season and expunge all results with very little consultation with the clubs involved. Weeks after the decision was ratified by the FA’s Council other leagues are still debating what should happen next, with the National League currently debating the feasibility of playing play-off matches. While those leagues have also been brought to a premature conclusion it’s not yet been decided how promotions and relegations will be decided.
All of which adds to the frustration felt by Tompkins and others at Ascot United, with the club on the verge of promotion to step four for the first time in their history. They’ll be nothing in the record books, no trophy or promotion for the Yellamen, but Tompkins hopes to utilise the players' shared sense of injustice for another tilt at the title next season.
“We were very disappointed by the decision taken by the FA,” said Tompkins. “We understand that health and safety is paramount at the moment, but we just feel the decision (to null and void the campaign) was taken too hastily.
“We were all for football returning when it’s safe to do so and for continuing the season.”
The club was one of more than 180 signatories of a letter urging the FA’s Council to rethink its decision, and, had there been a more ‘joined up’ approach, Tompkins feels the club could have accepted the decision, even if they didn’t agree with it.
“To play 80 per cent of the season and for it not to count is hard,” he added. “Even if the season had been resolved using points per game average, that would also have been favourable for us. But it was so frustrating because we were on course to win promotion, and we felt that we deserved that on the back of our performances throughout the year.
“I reacted very negatively at the beginning, but of course understanding the current situation. Now we’re focused on next season, whenever that will be, and we have a big sense of unfinished businesses, of wanting to finish the job next season.
“I think what’s most frustrating is that we’ve been treated differently to other levels of the game. We’ve been treated differently to the National League, The EFL and the Premier League. It would have been easier to accept the decision, if, from the Premier League down, it was all declared null and void. I still wouldn’t have agreed with the decision but it would have been easier to accept.”
The challenge for Tompkins now is to keep this group of talented players focused for another shot at success in the Combined Counties Premier Division next season. He says the whole club has a feeling of ‘unfinished business’, however, the playing squad is sure to have plenty of suitors from the leagues above. Their loyalty will be tested in the coming months, but Tompkins is confident he can keep the core of the squad together.
“We were fully expecting to play step four level football next year, which would have been the highest the club has been in its history,” said Tompkins. “We had some great moments and that’s something the FA can’t take away from us. There were also increased attendances, and the link between the youth team and the first team has become a lot stronger. That’s something that can’t be taken away.
“As a group we have a sense of unfinished business. All the players want to return next season, and we have a lot to offer them as a football club. We have amazing facilities (including a new 3G playing surface) they can use on a weekly basis. They also enjoy the environment.
“Yes, we have a talented squad and we will have clubs from the leagues above interested in them and wanting to sign them up. We fully expect that. But we’re confident we can keep the group together and, if we do, we’re confident we’ll have the makings of a very strong team again and we’ll be looking to win promotion and progress in the cup competitions once again.”
Tompkins added that the club wouldn’t be forming any sort of legal challenge to the FA’s decision, like some clubs have. They were one of nearly 200 club signatories of a petition asking for the FA to reconsider its stance last month, but once the decision was ratified they’ve ‘accepted it and will move on’, according to Tompkins. The focus of the club is now very much on next season, whenever that will be.
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