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Riley pays tribute to Totton's hard workers
There was a time earlier this summer when it looked as if the debt-ridden club might have to drop down the leagues or fold completely.
But after a series of failed takeover bids, the Stags has been working hard to raise funds and stabilise themselves under the leadership of interim chairman Andy Straker.
Former Bashley boss Riley has played his part too, rebuilding a young team on little money following a mass exodus of senior players.
And Monday’s magnificent 3-1 derby win – secured by home-grown duo Zac Mouland (2) and Luke Roberts – suggests there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.
“It’s reward for all the hard work that’s gone on at Totton over the past couple of months,” said Riley.
“We’ve had a few knock-backs, but hats off to Andy Straker for leading from the front, as a chairman should do, and to all those people who have been doing their best for the football club behind the scenes.
“When you’ve got that sort of help and support, you’ve got half a chance.”
Riley could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel during Totton’s darkest days and is frequently asked why he didn’t just walk away.
“Given the circumstances, a lot of people have asked why I’m still here,” he revealed.
“The reason is that I’m a football man and I like a challenge.
“I enjoyed my first season, albeit it was a difficult one, and I’m just pleased Andy Straker asked me to carry on.
“If he hadn’t wanted me to stay, I’d have walked away and said I’ve had a good year and it’s time to move on.
“But he wanted me to continue with a group of young lads and asked if I thought I could do a job.
“What I’m seeing now is a group of young players who are growing each week.
“They’ll play, they’ll sit on the bench, but they’re all learning their trade and they’ve all got a great attitude.
“Even though we lost our first three games, the lads didn’t give up the ghost. We’ve got a 46-game league season and there’s a long way to go yet, but I watched them grow in pre-season and they’re improving week by week.”
Having winched themselves off the foot of the table, Totton’s young braves face a big test tomorrow away to Chippenham Town whose manager Nathan Rudge resigned last week.
The tenth-placed Bluebirds – 5-0 winners at Frome on Monday – are under the temporary charge of Steve Winter.
“Chippenham are a strong side, but we’ve got lads playing without fear and long may that continue,” said Riley. “We go forward with a lot of energy and pace and we’ve already got young players with two or three goals each.”
New into the AFC Totton camp is defender Joe Noakes, signed on an initial month’s loan from Havant & Waterlooville.
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