HAVANT & Waterlooville would have to stump up hefty compensation if they wanted AFC Totton’s Stuart Ritchie to become their new man ager.

The Hawks strenuously deny allegations that they have illegally approached Ritchie about their vacant manager’s job following Shaun Gale’s departure last weekend.

But rumours persist that Ritchie – a former Havant player - is one of the leading candidates for the Westleigh Park post.

Jim Fallon, formerly Totton’s main sponsor, was appointed Hawks vice-chairman last week and is working closely with chairman Derek Pope in the search for Gale’s successor.

During his time at Totton, Fallon developed a close working relationship with Ritchie and his right-hand man Sean New, funding such signings as striker Ryan Moss and loan goalkeeper James Bittner.

Totton, though, would not let their man go cheaply.

Having led the Stags on a glory march to the FA Cup second round, Ritchie successfully negotiat ed a new two-and-a-half-year contract at the Testwood Stadium in January.

Written into that deal is a release clause stating that any club interested in recruiting Totton’s manager would have to cough up a five-figure compensation fee to release him from his contract.

Ritchie has performed miracles during seven glittering years in charge at Totton, lifting them from Wessex League obscurity to Southern Premier promotion contenders.

They reached the FA Vase final at Wembley in 2007 and have won the Hampshire FA Senior Cup for the last two seasons and are going for a hat- trick this year.

Asked about speculation linking him with Havant, Ritchie said: “At this time all I’m think ing about is promotion and defending the Hampshire Senior Cup. I want to finish the job I’ve started at Totton this season. I’ve got a job here that I’m being paid to do and I’ll carry on doing it.

“All I know about Havant’s interest is what I’ve read in the press. If it’s true and if it’s real, it’s maybe something I’d have to think about, I don’t know.

“I’ve had two offers from other clubs to manage higher before but have never pursued it.”