Danny Robinson and Tim Cole will leave Alresford at the end of the season after two years of unprecedented success at Arlebury Park, to the frustration of chairman Trevor Ingram.
But Malone has seen it all before.
“Under no circumstances do we want to fall out with Alresford, we’re very close geographically and I admire what they’ve done as a club, but we’ve just done what’s best for Winchester,” he said.
“I’ve done what I thought was the right thing by contacting their chairman first. But I got no response to that, for whatever reason he didn’t want to speak to me, so I left it a while before meeting Danny and Tim.
“It’s what happens in football. Danny and Tim did extremely well with no resources and no fans at Alresford, which was a little village club five years ago. Winchester have more potential than Alresford, who can’t go up a league.
“Sometimes you have to take your hat off, say ‘well done’ and wish them well. It’s almost inevitable that they were going to move on at some point. As I understand it they were going to go at the end of the season anyway, with Danny considering Thatcham, his local club, and Tim thinking about having a rest.”
Malone is hoping that Robinson and Cole bring the same brand of attractive, winning football to Abbotts Barton.
“Alresford have won the Hampshire Senior Cup, the Wessex League Cup and could yet go one better than last year’s runners-up finish in the league – and all on a zero budget,” said Malone.
“They’ve also been the best footballing side in the Wessex League for the last two years so this should work well. But then I’ve said that about two other managers this season.”
Graham Kemp and Neil Hards lasted just a few months each, but Robinson & Cole look a good fit.
“If this doesn’t work I will have to look at myself,” admits Malone. “This isn’t normally how I work. I’m not one for chopping and changing for the sake of it, I worked with Ian Baird for five years at Eastleigh, but Kempy and Hardsy just didn’t work out.
“I’ve known Tim for 12 years, he and Danny will give us the best chance of getting out of the league, but finishing higher than the fifth place we’re certain to get this year will be progress.
“Unlike my last spell here, we’ve spent a bigger proportion of our money on infrastructure rather than players, a strategic decision having been there before. Paul Murray is a very level headed chairman who’s done what’s right. We’ve spent £30,000 getting the ground up to Southern Premier standard, it’s unrecognisable from before the start of the season.
“We’ve also had some positive recent meetings with Winchester City Council about our plans for playing on an all-weather pitch. Now we have to get a team together, but Danny and Tim didn’t build Alresford in a day.”