DAVE Diaper can’t help but think Sholing would have got more respect had they lived beyond their means in the Southern League – and gone bust.

The festive season brought its fair share of ‘Boatmen bashing’.

Reigning Wessex champions Blackfield & Langley got the ball rolling by criticising the Portsmouth Road outfit for applying to go straight back into the Southern League – just months after resigning for financial reasons.

And now Danny Bowers, manager of neighbours Folland Sports, has put the boot in by urging Diaper to come clean about “buying” the Sydenhams Premier title.

Other cutting remarks have appeared on social media, leaving chairman/manager Diaper to conclude that the Boatmen might have been better thought of had they gone down the same route as AFC Totton, who are soldiering on in the Southern League despite declaring debts of nearly £200,000 last summer.

After four successful Southern League seasons in which they never finished outside the South & West top seven, Sholing voluntarily withdrew at the end of 2012/13 for financial/ground development reasons.

And, despite criticism from those who think it’s unfair to field a proven Southern League team in the Wessex ranks and then apply to go straight back up again, Diaper insists it was the common sense thing to do.

“If we were still playing in the Southern League, our budget would have run out at Christmas and you can’t run a business like that,” he said.

“Had we stayed up, we could have become another AFC Totton and I sometimes think we’d have got more respect if we had.

“It’s against the law to trade when you haven’t got the money, but we would probably have been seen in a better light had we stayed in the Southern League and gone bust.

“As it is, we’re being slated for being too good for the Wessex and for applying to go back up.”

Quizzed on the logic of that Southern League application, Diaper said: “You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

“The pressure’s on clubs to get applications in early, but who’s to know what will happen between the end of November and April?

“Sholing are not a wealthy club, but we’re a big club because of the infrastructure.

“We’re desperate to move forward and get some financial backing behind us.

“And if we do get some money men involved, it would be worse for the Wessex League if we stayed down because we’d have even more players next year. We’re being held back financially at the moment.

“What a lot of people don’t realise is that we get no bar takings – all that goes to the VT Sports Club – so we get by purely on gate money, sponsorship and FA Cup/Vase winnings.

“But we’re a Charter Standard Community Club with 16 teams.

“Funding streams are coming through for our new facilities and 3G pitch, but for one of the grants we’d get £50,000 more as a Southern League club than we would in the Wessex.

“We’ve saved on travelling expenses this year and our gates are up so, yes, I can see us going up again, but we will seriously have to look at the travel situation. The distances in the South & West place a hell of a demand on teams.

“Last season we had a coach every week, but we might have to go down the route of cars, which would save us £12,000.

“We’ve got to work on budgets and prove we can be sustainable at that level.”

As for his team, Diaper feels blessed to have an exceptional squad of players who have bucked the money-grabbing trend.

“It’s unique what’s happened at Sholing,” he said.

“People can’t believe that a group of players can stick together on vastly reduced wages.

“But ours have and there is some still some hope for football when that happens.”