Bideford manager Sean Joyce has said the four-year stint in the Southern Premier League has been ‘a pleasure’.
The manager was not too defeatist after the Robins were consigned to relegation for the first time in their 70-year history and insisted they will come back stronger. A 1-0 home loss to Merthyr Town on Tuesday sealed their fate with just three games to go – something that looked as though it would come far sooner at the turn of the year.
“It has been a pleasure to play in the Premier Division and get four years out of it,” said Joyce. “I honestly thought we would have a three-year span in this league. I thought if we stayed three years that would be a massive achievement, so we kicked on another year longer than I thought we would.”
“I have known since Christmas we were down but I think it is a great achievement from the boys to hang on the best we can. It is real now, it has happened, but I am not too disappointed because I think we have done well to drag it out as long as we have. The last thing I wanted to do was go down 10 games before the season finished.”
That looked a distinct possibility for Bideford as they were 18 points adrift of safety at the end of February. But, before Tuesday’s defeat, they had won five, drawn three and lost three of their last 11 games – comfortable mid-table form.
However, Joyce believes the writing was on the wall for Bideford for some time.
“It is not what we have done this season that has got us relegated,” he said. “It is the last two, two-and-a-half years. As a club, we haven’t built, kept the best players or been good enough – you can’t get away with that at this level. That’s not having a go at my club, because we just haven’t got enough money to secure players and put them on contracts.”
“We have got just over a week left of football and, honestly, after Christmas I didn’t think we would get this far. At least we have only got that week left, whereas it could have easily been six, seven or eight weeks. The boys have done tremendous to compete and be at this level.”