“Fully fit and ready to go” were the first words Hungerford Town manager Ian Herring said to Football in Bracknell ahead of the big Berkshire derby at the weekend as East Berkshire Slough Town head west to Bulpit Lane in the Vanarama National League South.
Three straight wins and two preceding draws have helped drag the Crusaders away from the relegation zone in the last five games but the situation remains precarious both on and off the pitch at the former Hellenic League club.
Herring though is relishing the visit of Slough and their respective managers Jon Underwood and Neil Baker who he calls ‘two of the good guys’.
The Crusaders boss is well aware that the Rebels – who could still sneak in the the play offs this season – present a big challenge for his side but one he is prepared for, not least having taken points off promotion chasing Woking and Billericay Town in recent weeks.
Herring said: “They have a good squad which does well, like us on team ethic. They are two of the good guys and it’s a shame both sides can’t have the three points.”
That last comment highlighted a mutual respect between the sides with Underwood saying: “Ian is a good man and he’s doing a great a job at Hungerford.”
Off the pitch troubles
It’s been well documented this week that the Crusaders are in a fight to stay at step 2 both on and off the pitch.
The clubs Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer will all step down in the summer and the club have been active, particularly through Herring in trying to replace them.
In last weekends Non League Paper, Herring said: “We don’t so much need financial input, it’s more people who have got the dedication and ambition to bring in the sponsors.”
Since the news came out at a supporters meeting on 28th March, there has, according to the manager been progress. Herring said: “There is stuff going on behind the scenes. Hopefully a bit of progress. A week is a long time in football and hopefully next week there will be more progress.
“I felt the club should have been more open sooner, but these off the pitch changes have been coming. I am though glad the club has agreed to this way forward.”
When asked about the possibility of taking voluntary demotion, Herring said it would be a crying shame for a club that began it’s climb up the leagues from the Hellenic Premier at the end of the 2008/09 season.
“We are punching well above our weight”
Speaking passionately, he said: “For a town the size of Hungerford to be in the National League [Hungerford has a population of around 5,500 people – Bracknell is around 80,000], we are punching well above our weight.
“To give up all that progress after all the time, effort and money put in by previous committees, chairman, managers players and volunteers, for all that work to be given up would be a crying shame.”
When asked about remaining at the club next season, particularly if the club remain in the National League, Herring said: “I love the club and I’d love to be here next season. The club has given me a lot on a personal and professional level and if I can be part of making the club self sufficient then I’d love that.
“However if new people come in and want to go in a different direction I understand, but I don’t want to go.”
Rebels on the road
For Slough, seven points separate them and a play off spot, but the club have had a great first season in the National League regardless.
Managers Underwood and Baker have just picked up the manager of the month award for March and go in to the game with only doubts around Manny Williams fitness.
Underwood said on the Rebels website: “Manny Williams limped off with a groin injury last weekend but was able to take part in training last night and we’ll assess him before the game. Added to the 16-man squad is Dan Roberts who has just played two games for Windsor in the past week, scoring two more goals in the process, and he gives us another attacking option.”
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Main image: Ian Herring by Phil Cannings.