Bantick throws in towel but AFC boss is not quitting

SURPRISE EXIT: Sam Bantick did not want to stay for Sudbury's relegation battle
SURPRISE EXIT: Sam Bantick did not want to stay for Sudbury's relegation battle

AFC Sudbury’s top appearance maker and goalscorer this season, Sam Bantick, has thrown in the towel on their relegation fight by choosing to leave — but manager Jamie Godbold is adamant he will not be following suit.

With the transfer deadline day for Ryman League level (steps 3&4 of the non-league pyramid) clubs looming large tomorrow, Godbold made clear in an exclusive interview with the Free Press published online earlier this week that he only wanted players who wanted to be at the club.

What was not apparent at that stage, however, was that after The Yellows boss had revealed he had asked anyone not willing to fight tooth-and-nail for Sudbury’s survival to raise their hand, he has now told us his top scorer, Bantick, did just that.

Of the situation with the 13-goal attacking midfielder, who started Saturday’s 4-0 home horrorshow against fellow relegation candidates Hendon, he said: “I had already said that if people do not want to be here or fight for relegation they are better off going and, in all fairness, Sam was honest enough to say he was finding the situation very tough.

“I respect him for being honest. I need people at this stage who are going to put themselves forward to be shot at.

“It was his decision to leave.”

Asked if he was disappointed, he replied: “Yes. But there is not a lot I can do.

“I need people going into Saturday’s game who are still wanting to put that jersey on with the pride it deserves and are willing to fight for each other.”

Of Bantick’s record this season, having been signed from promotion-winning Concord Rangers as a key player who had impressed in a spell at AFC last season, scoring five times in eight games as part of a dual registration, Godbold said: “He has been good this season but I do not think he has lived up to the expectations he set last year.

“He is our top goalscorer, but you have to look back to last year (December 26 at Needham Market) for his last goal for us in open play.”

The AFC boss confirmed he has been released from his contract by mutual consent, meaning the club will not get a fee for him, but Godbold said it was the best course of action, as it has freed up the wage bill to go get a big target in.

At the time of going to press, Godbold said the club was ‘working very hard’ with ‘three or four conversations’ pending to bring in someone who can score goals ahead of Friday’s shut-off deadline for transfers, saying he hoped to have an announcement to make (see www.suffolkfreepress.co.uk/sport for any breaking news) by this morning.

With some discontent being directed at him on Twitter this week, following the publication of our very frank post-match interview on Saturday, Godbold said of his immediate future: “It is my third year at the club and my fourth year of management, which effectively makes me a four-year-old.

“I have got lots to learn and I need to get through this period as I have never done it (relegation fight) as a player or as a manager for my career.

“If I threw the towel in now, what would that say about me as a character?

“In my three seasons with Sudbury I have got into the play-offs and won one league and promotion.

“Ahead of this season, at our highest ever level, everyone would have said this would be tough for us, so I am surprised some people seem to be surprised we are in this position.

“I have made mistakes, but so has everyone.”