Hullbridge Sports have an even bigger mountain to climb ahead of next season after losing their promotion-winning manager Darren Manning.
The Isthmian League club – already reeling after two break-ins in May halted urgent work to meet ground-grading requirements and led to the launch of a £10,000 crowdfunding campaign – now need a new touchline team after assistant manager James Wakeling and goalkeeping coach Ryan Frost also left Lower Road.
But Manning, who led the club to promotion into the Isthmian League’s North Division as Essex Senior League champions in 2018–19 in his first season at the helm, pictured, opened the door to a swift return in his own statement following the trio’s departure on Monday.
The blow came as the club’s appeal on the Crowdfunder platform to help replace the expensive pitch equipment that was stolen and install the new covered stand they need approached the £2,000 mark, the total standing at £1,745 by Tuesday night.
On behalf of me and @JamesWakeling1
A day we never thought would happen so soon!
— Darren Manning (@darren_manning) June 8, 2020
In a statement which went on to thank the club’s fans, players and officials, Manning told fans: “Today is a day we didn’t expect to happen, leaving Hullbridge is a huge decision and one we have not taken lightly!
“There has been things happening behind the scenes which has made this decision happen a lot sooner than we would have wished for and who knows, if these issues are rectified, it could see us return to a club we hold very close to our heart in the not too distant future!
The Sports, who were 15th in the standings when the coronavirus ended their campaign, paid tribute to the trio in a club statement announcing their departures.
It read: “We would like to thank Darren and James for everything they have done for the club during their successful tenure, leading Hullbridge Sports FC to be Essex Senior League Champions in their first full season and promoting the club to the Isthmian North Division for the first time in the club’s history. They will always be welcome back to Lower Road.
“Following the announcement of Darren and James’s departure, first team goalkeeping coach Ryan Frost has also announced he will be leaving. We would like to thank Ryan for his contribution during his time with the club and will also be welcome back to Lower Road.”
Established in 1945 as Hullbridge United, the Essex club runs over 25 teams from under-6 through to men’s senior football.
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Images courtesy of The Non-League Paper & @HullbridgeFC/Twitter