Hadleigh United are set to use AFC Sudbury’s route to the Ryman League as a blueprint to ensure they do not gamble the club’s long-term future.
The Yellows won five straight Eastern Counties League (Thurlow Nunn League) titles from 2000/01 before accepting they were ready to keep the club on an even keel at step four of the football pyramid.
And after winning their first-ever step five title, with last season’s eighth place having been the club’s previous highest finish, Hadleigh manager Stuart Crawford has warned supporters the club needs to do a lot of building off the pitch before making the move up to the Ryman League.
After a thrilling finale to their Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division season, which saw them leave it late at the Millfield on Saturday before Duane Wright scored the goal which sealed the championship, Crawford warned they have to be ready off the field to accept promotion.
“It can only happen if the club can generate some more sponsors,” he said. “At the end of the day, that is what is needed.
“If you go back a few years, AFC Sudbury built their success on winning this league year after year and a few good FA Vase runs and all that can do is put money in the bank for the club.
“Also, it increases the people who come down and watch and it increases the players who want to come and play at the club.”
Chairman Rolf Beggerow, warned it may take another two or three years before they apply for promotion.
“It is true to say we punched above our weight from a financial perspective,” he said. “There is no question that we would have been irresponsible just to take the promotion and gone up a step.
“But that is not to say we are not an ambitious club, but we need to do it properly and build it upon a proper financial base.
“Hopefully our position now will help us build up our revenues next year.
“The players might get a little break, but certainly off the field we won’t get a break.”
He added of the AFC Sudbury model: “It certainly fits our approach.”
Crawford — one of the youngest managers to win the league at 33, following a knee injury ending his career at the Millfield — warned he may face his hardest test, after four years at the helm, in trying to keep hold of his title winners.
“It will be difficult because they are champions and the players will be
wanted,” he said. “It is also a fact we have not got the finances to say ‘you stay here because we will give you this and that’ because we haven’t got it.
“They could get poached from other clubs.
“If they do then I will have to rebuild and look further down the line and see what other players are around that we can get in.”
After a dramatic final-day 2-1 win over Mildenhall Town, Crawford spoke of his immense pride at what his squad had achieved.
“In pre-season people were talking about Gorleston winning it and Brightlingsea have put up a hell of a fight and fair play to
them, they have done exceptionally well, and Felixstowe have come on strong
towards the end,” he said. “But we led for most of the season and I am just proud we managed to do it at the death.”
Beggerow, who has been involved with the club since being on the youth committee when his son was playing 20 years ago, said his over-riding emotion was ‘relief’.
He said: “Clearly we made hard weather of it in the end, but it is true to say it is the best day in the club’s history.
“We heard the reserves won (the league) as well, so it really is an historical day.”