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The Non-League Football Paper

Eastleigh owner Stewart Donald’s interest hasn’t Couled!

EASTLEIGH’S sudden fire sale does not mean big backer Stewart Donald is about to walk away – in fact, their poor season has only grown his desire to carry out his promise of taking the club into the Football League.

The side with the biggest budget in the National League have failed to live up to expectations this season and last week they lost two of their star players.

A few months ago, it was well known that Eastleigh would only sell midfielder Luke Coulson if a club could find £1m. How quickly things change.

The 22-year-old’s form took a huge dip ever since Championship moves were mentioned and last Wednesday he signed for Barnet for a fee believed to be just five figures.

Their most consistent performer for the past two seasons, full-back Joe Partington, secured a move to Bristol Rovers 24 hours earlier.

An offer from an unnamed club for striker Scott Wilson was also accepted but the player turned down the move after talks.

The willingness to let players go prompted questions about chairman Donald, and if he was to scale back his financial backing having pumped millions into the Hampshire club over the past five years.

But he told The NLP that couldn’t be further from the truth – and revealed he will be increasing his commitment to the club and that’s good news for new boss Martin Allen.

Determined Donald said: “If I quit I’m giving up on what I set out to do. I’m not a quitter, this season has just made me more determined if anything.

“I admit I’ve not quite got it right yet, but I can’t leave Eastleigh – especially with us still being a Non-League club. I’m close to putting more money in to take us to the next step. The ground is getting better and better but we do need to start backing our ambitions up by winning more matches.”

Sceptics will ask why they are parting with two of their best players, notably when the money received will be a drop in the ocean to the insurance tycoon.

He said: “It’s a bit surreal. We have never had this amount of interest in our players – they all want them when we’re having our worst season!

“We’ve made a couple of judgment calls. Luke (Coulson) three months ago was the league’s best player possibly, he was on a hot streak and everyone wanted him. Did he get distracted? I don’t know about that but we were left with a choice: cash in and let him kick-start things at Barnet or keep him here in the hope he might improve and get back in the team.

“Joe Partington has been wonderful for the club but we haven’t kicked on enough to keep him here. League One is the level he deserves to be playing at so I couldn’t stand in his way.”

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