End of the road as door be­gins to shut on Fleet

The Non-League Football Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By Matt Bad­cock

BOSTIK PREMIER side Thur­rock look cer­tain to fold at the end of the sea­son as Non-League clubs con­tinue to feel the fi­nan­cial pinch.

In a sea­son where Na­tional League Hartle­pool United, Chester and Da­gen­ham & Red­bridge have run into dif­fi­cul­ties, Bostik Premier Fleet are set to slip off the foot­ball map.

Boss Mark Stimson, whose side won pro­mo­tion to Step 3 through the Di­vi­sion One South play-offs in 2016-17, says he’s been told the Es­sex out­fit won’t play next year. The for­mer Grays Ath­letic and Steve­nage man­ager says his play­ers will give their all for the re­main­ing months, while their po­ten­tial demise will im­pact the Na­tional League Sys­tem club al­lo­ca­tions ahead of the 2018-19 sea­son.

A club is likely to be pro­moted up to fill any va­cancy rather than a rel­e­ga­tion re­prieve at Step 3. Fleet’s Chair­man Tommy

South, who co-founded the club as Pur­fleet in 1985, put the Fleet up for sale at the start of the sea­son be­cause of health rea­sons and ad­mit­ted the fu­ture was bleak with­out a buyer.

Ques­tion marks have been hang­ing over the club all sea­son and Stimson says he was told be­fore Christ­mas the club, whose Ship Lane ground has been listed for sale, will close at the end of the cur­rent cam­paign.

He told The NLP: “It’s dif­fi­cult be­cause this time of year you’re look­ing at play­ers for next sea­son and talk­ing to your own play­ers, they are ask­ing ques­tions and you have to be hon­est with them and say, ‘Next sea­son, who knows?’

“You ask your play­ers to give you ev­ery­thing. They’re not stupid. They get phone calls, seven-day ap­proaches com­ing in and, es­pe­cially at this level, if some­one wants to of­fer them £50-a-week more that can make a big dif­fer­ence.

Stimson be­lieves he has a spe­cial group of play­ers and he wants them to fin­ish the sea­son on a high for them­selves and the club’s loyal band of sup­port­ers.

“There are some great peo­ple at the club, who vol­un­teer and do things, they de­serve a men­tion,” he said. “Also the fans. It will be sad for them as well. I’ve been here six years, but these guys have been there 10-15 years and some longer than that.

“It’s go­ing be a mas­sive thing for them not see­ing their team ev­ery week.”

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