HAVANT & Waterlooville’s new assistant manager Barry Blankley reckons the Conference National is “the place to be.”

The Southampton-based former Bashley and AFC Totton manager has been installed as Stuart Ritchie’s right-hand man at Westleigh Park after the Hawks dismissed assistant manager Sean New.

Not only are the newly- installed managerial duo looking to put last season’s Blue Square Bet South relegation struggles firmly behind the Hawks, but they are aiming to lift the club to the pinnacle of the non-League pyramid.

Blankley has experience of reaching the Conference National promised land with Salisbury City where he was assistant to ex-Saint Nick Holmes from 2004 to 2009.

The former Saints apprentice and Aldershot full-back, pictured, said: “That’s the place to be if you can get there.

“You just have to look at all the ex- Football League clubs in there like Luton, York and Lincoln.

“As long as things are right financially, that’s where clubs should be aiming to be.

“I’ve had experience of going through the leagues with Salisbury and, although it’s three years now since I left there, I’ve still been involved doing scouting for League Two and Conference clubs.

“I’ve kept myself busy for the last couple of years, but I didn’t have time to commit to a club at this level. But now, with work, I can.”

New, Ritchie’s assistant for eight years at AFC Totton, has been relieved of his duties at Westleigh Park after being suspended by the club last week for “non-disclosures” about his past.

“It is a very sad personal thing for me because Sean is a good lad, but we just have to move on,” said Ritchie.

The Hawks’ latest signing is 19-year-old goalkeeper Matt Pegler, who spent three seasons with Woking.

*More on this story and all the latest regional non-League news in the weekend’s Pink.