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Needham face ‘pointless’ move to Southern League next season

BITTERSWEET: Needham beat Margate 3-2 on Saturday, as the club mourn former manager Steve Folkard (Picture: Ben Pooley)
BITTERSWEET: Needham beat Margate 3-2 on Saturday, as the club mourn former manager Steve Folkard (Picture: Ben Pooley)

Richard Wilkins thinks proposed changes to the league structure that could see Needham Market move to the Southern Football League next season are a ‘waste of time and money’.

The Bostik League Premier Division club’s manager said he ‘did not see the point’ of altering the current league boundaries, in response to provisional changes put forward by the FA as part of a national league shake-up from the 2018/18 season.

A map, published by The Non-League Football paper this week, shows the Southern League Premier Division would be split into two geographical regions — to create four leagues at Step 3 of the National Football League.

Most of East Anglia would be incorporated into a new Southern League across the Midlands, with the Isthmian League covering London and the South East (as far north as Ipswich).

The FA’s League Committee decided the principles to be applied when allocating clubs to the various leagues.

The decisions were made from the results of two exercises to determine where constituent clubs were based, using tables at the end of last season and tables as of January 2, 2018.

Wilkins did not believe a new league would necessarily mean further distances to travel for The Marketmen, but did not think that was the key issue with the proposals.

He said: “We’ve not been told anything official, only rumour. It seems like a whole lot of changes for, from what I can tell, very little reason.

“The FA seem to have decided changes are required — I just can’t see what it’s going to achieve though. But there’s not much we can do about it really, they are in control.”

He added that the move could put his side at a disadvantage, due to a lack of familiarity with the teams and players they would suddenly be facing.

He said: “I don’t think it would affect our travel much, some teams would be closer and others further away, but it could have both football and financial implications. And for what reason? It seems like a bit of a waste of time and money to me.

“So we’re not worrying about it, we’re focusing on the league and on staying up.”

And that target was dealt a significant boost on Saturday, as the Marketmen beat promotion hopefuls Margate at home by 3-2.

Jamie Griffiths scored in the 35th and 71st minutes, before Dan Morphew added the third, from the penalty spot, in the 84th minute.

Wilkins said his side ‘thoroughly deserved to win’ with the scoreline ‘flattering’ their visitors.

He said: “I’m really pleased with the performance, it was maybe not one that was expected from anyone, so it gives us more belief and confidence.

“We can play and beat anyone in this league. And we’re playing well at the moment.”

They are due to travel to Metropolitan Police on Saturday (3pm) although Wilkins expects it to be postponed.

If so, their next outing will be at home to basement side Burgess Hill Town on Tuesday evening (7.45pm) — the match has twice been rearranged.

With just nine points separating the two teams, Wilkins said it is a crucial game to keep the team clear of a relegation battle.

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