By Jon Couch
TOM KILLICK believes it will be a victory for loyalty in football if his Poole Town side can upset the odds once again and make the National League South play-offs.
The Dolphins achieved a magnificent fifth place finish last season only to be denied the chance to compete in the play-offs due to FA ground grading rules, along with the likes of Hungerford Town and National League North club Darlington.
As a result, Killick was expected to face a player exodus on the south coast this summer with several of his top young stars having attracted interest from the top division.
But, the long-serving boss has managed to persuade all but two of last year’s squad to stay at the Tatnum Ground for next season – and is determined to ensure that their loyalty is rewarded.
“After such a successful season it was important we kept a majority of the squad,” Killick said. “Reaching the play-offs last season against bigger clubs with bigger budgets was a magnificent achievement and, in my opinion, that was based largely on stability.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have manager here for a good few years now and most of the squad have played together for between three and six years. That showed in our performances last year. I likened our squad to Hungerford’s, and it was no coincidence that they had an excellent season too!
“But after what happened off the field, we knew it would be more difficult to persuade them to stay. As one player put it, they ‘didn’t want a season of friendlies’ and I can see that viewpoint. Players want to push their careers as far as they can and win things. They didn’t want to be lacking in motivation.
“Thankfully for us, we have managed to persuade the majority of them to stay. The players decided to put their trust in the club that if we could get ourselves in the play-offs again then the club could be in a position to compete.
“If we could replicate last season – even with the extension to the play-offs – it would be an astonishing achievement, but that’s what we are going for.”
Although the Dolphins have been assured that recent improvements to the Tatum Ground were enough to assure their National League South status, they are still a long way off fulfilling the requirements of the top tier, where Category A requirements include a minimum capacity of 4,000 with 500 covered seats.
“The club still have an awful lot of work to do off the field,” Killick accepted. “I want them to do it and need them to do it, but at the same time I know it is a mammoth task. In our appeal, it was made clear to the National League that they should look at their approach to this and consider the huge step in regulations between the two leagues and the huge financial outlay that it incurs for clubs. Hopefully common sense will prevail.
“As a squad, all we can do in the meantime is trust the club and get on with matters on the field. If we don’t get results then what happens off the field will be academic.”