Axed manager blames players

AXED Long Melford FC manager Geoff Cleal has hit out at the player power he says is ruling the club.

The Londoner became the third manager in three years to be shown the door at Stoneylands - following Paul Grainger and Steve Rodgers - last week, following claims he had lost the dressing room.

But the former head coach, who was appointed first team manager in October 2009, has launched an attack on what he sees as players being allowed to exert too high an influence on the club’s decision-makers.

“Several players have gone to the board behind my back and said they do not like my formation and I cannot believe the amount of player power at that club,” said Cleal.

“I am not the first one, I am the third one in three years. My honest opinion is the inexperience of the board made them panic.”

News of the managerial change came the day after an embarrassing 3-2 defeat to bottom club Cornard United last Thursday.

A statement released by the Ridgeons First Division club, currently fifth bottom, said although they had made one of the best starts to a season for many years, with three straight wins, results and performances since September had been “on a downward spiral”, forcing their hand.

The Cornard result, which was only their rivals’ second win of the season, was Melford’s sixth straight league loss, which included a 5-0 home defeat to Godmanchester Rovers and a 7-1 thrashing at Whitton United.

A club spokesman told the Free Press: “The view we took was perhaps he had lost the respect of the players and lost the dressing room.

“Results were not good and a change had to be made for the good of the club. That decision was not made lightly.”

Cleal’s assistant Jason Maher — currently serving the second game of a three-match touchline ban — and reserves manager Adrian Perry, have been appointed caretaker managers and will get the chance to land the role full time.

The spokesman added: “The caretaker managers Adrian Perry and Jason Maher will be given a fair crack of the whip.

“We have had managers of Ryman experience and better approach us, but we will take stock in a few weeks time and discuss and decide the best way to go.”

Cleal said he felt the directors had acted too swiftly, with five injured players now returning to the team, which he claimed had “taken the guts out of the team” following their flying start.

The change means right winger Dean Costello, the son-in-law of Cleal, is likely to have played his last game for the Stoneylands outfit.

The managerial dismissal came days after the club suffered severe flooding damage to their changing rooms and clubhouse as a result of a burst water pipe.

Melford officials had to consequently postpone the home match with Whitton United, scheduled for last weekend, and have moved Saturday’s fixture with Gorleston to their Emerald Park ground.

Cleal said he hopes to return to Ridgeons League management at another club as soon as possible.