Havant & Waterlooville were regular title-chasers in the South West Combination and even got as far as the play-off final for the Premier League but suffered a shock demise this term.
The team suddenly found themselves with insufficient players to carry on. The Hawks were far from the first to collapse in this manner and probably won’t be the last. Even at Combination level and above, the game may be improving and growing in many ways but teams can still lack stability, not just in terms of players but also in the form of facilities, grounds and even their very names.
The Hawks’ Club Secretary, Trevor Brock, explains how it all went so painfully wrong.
SK: How has a club that has done so well, subsequently soon folded?
TB: We folded because we lost 9 quality players in the build-up to the season and nobody can get over that. We brought in half a dozen players to try and keep the thing going, with 6 left from last season’s squad. There wasn’t a lot of quality there in the new players and it was fairly obvious we would struggle quite quickly. Although we only lost our first game 1-0, we lost our next two 7-0 and 8-0. There was a lack of commitment, there’d be 8 or 9 going training, whereas we were used to perhaps 20 before.
We were confident we could have got teams out for home games but the away games were just a disaster. Some of our next games were at Exeter, Gloucester, Newquay and we’d have been drawn at Newquay again in the FA Cup, if we’d kept going. People just didn’t have the commitment to do those sort of games.
SK: What could have helped the side survive?
TB: Roger Reeves, secretary of the league was fantastic with us and undertood where we were coming from. We were given 2 weeks to sort things out and we did for a while think that we had done so but the last 2 weeks we were looking at 7s and 6s of available players.
The sad thing is that we had much success and I thought we had a tightly-run group, unfortunately it wasn’t as tight as I thought it was. It is heart-breaking, I’d lived it for 7 years and it was all so sudden, I didn’t have an inkling 4 weeks before the season,
Probably no women’s side locally plays on a better pitch, we have a Conference South ground, an ‘A’ license coach, first class therapist and it was a well-adminstered club. I don’t know what more we could have done.
We’d have gone down a league and regrouped if we could have. We couldn’t, however, go places like Newquay with 7 players and there was no prospect of that improving in the short term. We were hemorrhaging players as fast as we were getting them in.
SK: Is there anything you wish had been done differently last year, or a few years back?
TB: The key to the whole thing really was 18 months ago when we got to the final of the play-offs [to the Premier League]. In the semi-final we murdered Norwich City 5-1 and we were as good as we’d ever been but in the final we had only 13 players available for the biggest game in our history. We only lost it 1-0 [to Gilingham] and I’ve no doubt we could have won it with those couple of extra players.
It’s been more difficult ever since because we immediately lost key players to Portsmouth . Although we had a decent season last year, it’s never been quite the same since. Having lost out on promotion 3 seasons running, those misses killed us at the end of the day. I think we’d have done quite well in the Premier League but there’s only a limited number of players in this area and with Brighton taking off to a certain degree, there just wasn’t the bodies around to compete at that sort of level.
SK: Who should be recognised for doing their best to keep it alive and also getting the team them to the verge ot the Premier League?
TB: Dick Semark has been the manager for the last 5 years exp, having had previous managerial experience in men’s football with Havant Town a few years back. He found a new lease of life at 70 running the women’s team. He’s absolutely loved it and it’s sad it ended this way for him. Right up till the end he was attempting to get new payers in and never gave up.
Nicky Shackleton, our physio for the last 4 seasons, was always available for training and matches, travelled all over.
One player I’d like to single out is Jenna Fowlie, who improved along with the club. When she first joined, at the beginning in the Hampshire League, she struggled to get into the side but she just put in the effort and determination and continuously kept up with the pace as we moved upwards and was still a first choice in the South West Combination, right to the end.
SK: Are there plans for a team in the future for Havant?
TB: I’m feeling a bit bruised at the moment, so for the time being I’m going to take a rest and there’s certainly no plans to get involved in women’s football again in the near future.
Pictured (from top) – Trevor Brock, match action, Dick Semark, Jenna Fowlie.
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