‘We didn’t want to know’: Relief for Sweetman as Holyport emerge victorious in basement battle

Derek Sweetman. Photo: Richard Claypole.
Derek Sweetman. Photo: Richard Claypole.

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On Saturday, Holyport secured their step 5 status in the Combined Counties League Premier Division North by matching CB Hounslow United’s score at North Greenford United. Football in Berkshire spoke to a relieved Port boss this week after the dust had settled. Here’s everything he said.

It was a hard hard day. Right up there with the hardest of my career, the season has been an uphill struggle but ultimately we’ve achieved what we set out to do.

The group has changed through the season. We did what we needed to do to survive. What we’ve achieved is up there as a highlight for me, we’re heading in the right direction.

There have been no discussions yet on next season. We have a management meeting in a week or so and we’ll get together as a club for our awards night, but right now it’s time to relax!

We didn’t want to know what was going on at North Greenford. Scores were relayed but we didn’t want it to distract us. There was definitely a little relief when we heard Hounslow had a player sent off early on we conceded just before half-time and we knew they were 0-0 so we knew we still had to go for it.

We struggled for a period in the second half, Southall are a very good side, but then we’d heard it was 1-0 and quickly 2-0. Sam Lock and I had a decision to make and we decided to try and play and get a point. Then it came across as 4-0 and so we switched it up and tried to have a real go at Southall.

A waiting game

Bracknell Town manager Sam Lock
Holyport assistant manager Sam Lock. Photo: Neil Graham / ngsportsphotography.com

It took a long time for things to happen at North Greenford but that probably helped us focus. We were never chasing anything other than what was happening in our own game.

Our game certainly wasn’t a spectacle. A rock hard pitch and not a lot of grass. They’ll have gotten used to playing on that but it wasn’t easy.

Southall do it all well, we gave them a guard of honour coming out which we felt was right. They play good old fashioned Southern League football. Bash it in the channels and get it across. It’s no surprise they’ve done really well this season and I congratulate them.

The food afterwards wasn’t bad either. Southall is renowned for its food and they didn’t disappoint.

At the end though it was a right contrast. Both teams in their own boxes celebrating different things but ours was of relief. It has been a tough one mentally this season. We always had faith. We’ve stayed up because of what we’ve done over the last nine to ten games.

On changing managers

I’m a believer that when the board makes the decision on appointing a manager, they should be allowed to manage for the time they’re appointed. I’m realistic to know though that if you are bottom of the league and haven’t won in however many games that you’re at risk.

But it’s not easy chopping and changing all the time either. I understand it at the top level where there’s a lot of money involved and all that, but at our level, there’s an element of enjoyment for a manager and there are so many more factors as to why a team may or may not be performing that just don’t exist in the pro game.

I’ve been managing 35 years now and I’m fortunate I’ve mostly not been out of work. I’m pleased and very proud of that. If you add in a playing career it’s probably nearer a 50-year career in football.

On next season

The boys we’ve brought in have bought into what we do and we’re well set up for next season. These youngsters have had a chance to learn about this level of football and will be ready to go again and prove themselves, hopefully, we can help them develop their careers.

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