OUT-GOING Winchester City boss Neil Hards has warned his successor to be prepared for “high expectations” at the Denplan City Ground.
Having come back to help the club last October following Graham Kemp’s brief spell in charge, Hards – manager during City’s golden 2004 FA Vase-winning era – agreed an amicable parting of the ways last week due to family and personal reasons.
Winchester are due to name his successor shortly – maybe even as early as this week – and Hards has warned the new incumbent that, despite operating on a lesser budget than the 2004 hey-day, the club’s ambition remains as high as ever.
Hards, who will stand down at the end of the season, said: “It’s been a good six months for me here and I’ve enjoyed the company of the players and working with Paul (assistant manager Paul Masters) but I was only ever here to help out.
“I hope now the club will progress and get themselves up to the next level.
“For me it was about coming in, trying to stabilise things and being fairly competitive with the group of players we’ve got.
“I’ve not been paid anything, we’ve never even spoken about money, and I’ve worked with a reduced budget so that they could put finances into getting the ground up to Southern League standard.
“But now that ground work has been done, the expectation is on the next manager to bring Southern League football to the club.”
Hards can be rightly proud of his six months at the City helm.
Although they have lost ground on pacemakers Alresford and Sholing since Christmas and been overtaken by form side Folland Sports, he has managed to bring several promising youngsters through while still keeping the club competitive in the top bracket.
But, rightly or wrongly, he fears that will not be good enough to keep his successor in a job.
He said: “At Winchester you’re expected to win every game and, if you don’t, there’s always a debate about it.
“Consistency is what it’s all about in this league and we haven’t been able to get that since Christmas whereas Sholing and Alresford have. We’re just seeing the season out and nobody wants that.
“But winning game after game is a big ask for anyone in this division, particularly Winchester because everyone wants to beat us.
“And it’s going to be just as strong next year with clubs like Alresford, Sholing, if they don’t go up, Follands and Portchester – plus the new side Kempy’s putting together at Hamworthy.
“As much as people want to win things, they have to understand that only one team can win the league every season and no club can expect to just turn up and win.
“It’s time now for Winchester to go out and get a manager who can take them forward, but whoever comes in is going to have a tough job on their hands,” he warned.
“Who knows, if it doesn’t work out, I may have to come back and help them out again!”