RUGBY TOWN: Belford bows out with pride and praise

Supporters gather behind the dug-out to voice their thanks to Dale Belford  PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY
Supporters gather behind the dug-out to voice their thanks to Dale Belford PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

Manager thanks players and fans for their support

Rugby Town’s departing manager Dale Belford was still full of praise for his side, despite seeing them round things off with their worst run of the season last weekend at Butlin Road, writes Jon Venner.

A sad farewell for manager Dale Belford    PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

A sad farewell for manager Dale Belford PICTURES BY MARTIN PULLEY

The 2-1 home defeat against Shaw Lane meant it was four on the bounce for Belford at the end of his brief tenure, but he still was keen to stress the efforts of his squad as well as the contribution of the club’s supporters during his seven month stay.

Belford said: “We’ve asked a lot of the players over the final month or so, and it was always going to be a tough ask to have crept into the play-offs from where we came from.

“To their credit, they managed to take it to the last few games, but I guess it’s fair to say we ran out of steam a bit and one or two of them appeared to be running on empty towards the end.

“It didn’t help losing a couple of key players through injury at the wrong time, but the lads should take an immense amount of credit for the way they have responded during my time here, and it’s a pity that potentially the squad now won’t stay together as a unit as result of the circumstances.”

Tom James in Town's last game

Tom James in Town's last game

The Shaw Lane reverse saw Town finish their first ever NPL South Division in 9th place - ending fourteen points shy of the final play-off place, after having flirted with a spot in the relegation zone during a disappointing opening few months in their league.

Belford acknowledged the support he had received from the Valley faithful. He continued: “I really appreciate the way that the fans have welcomed me and got behind what we were doing.

“They have helped make what was a difficult job a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable, and I am certain they have helped in achieving the aim that was set out back in September – namely to keep this club at this level of the non-league pyramid.

“I’d forgotten how passionate the supporters were here, and they have helped to give me back my love of the game, after the difficult time I had towards the end of my spell as manager at Tamworth.”

Rob Parker against league runners-up Shaw Lane Aquaforce

Rob Parker against league runners-up Shaw Lane Aquaforce

A group of Rugby fans gathered behind Belford’s dug-out during the second half of last Saturday’s game to reciprocally voice their thanks back too.

Belford added: “It was a really nice gesture, but it didn’t surprise me as they have been fantastic to me throughout. A massive thank you to them all, and hopefully we have also brought a smile back to their faces during the past few months and reconnected them with the players again.”

The search still goes on for Belford’s successor, with the club hoping to make an imminent appointment to allow the new man at the helm as much time as possible to prepare for the 2016/17 campaign, when Town will be looking to finally make the return to step three of the pyramid at the seventh time of asking.

Belford himself says he is not sure where the new season will take him. He concluded: “I’m going to take stock of the situation for now, but if anyone had doubted my abilities as a manager before, then hopefully this role has proved that I am still capable.

Chris Tullin breaks clear in Town's final game of the season

Chris Tullin breaks clear in Town's final game of the season

“Of course I want to get back involved, as I love the game and it is what I have been doing most of my life.

“I probably needed that break between Tamworth and Rugby, and I certainly won’t rush any decision as to the future, but hopefully I will be back somewhere soon.”

# The club’s annual presentation evening will take place in the Butlin Road hospitality suite on Friday 6th May. Proceedings commence from 7 p.m. and places for the three course meal can be reserved by calling 01788 866904. Supporters not wishing to purchase tickets for the meal are still welcome to attend and light refreshments will be available in the VS Bar for them.