Blackfield & Langley FC optimistic despite voluntary relegation 

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Fawzi Saadi replaces Glenn Howes as Blackfield & Langley manager. Photo: Les Chase

BLACKFIELD & Langley FC are “going down to build back up” after they submitted a request to the FA to be moved down from the Southern Premier League South.

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After their investor, manager and several key players left the club to join AFC Totton, the Watersiders are unable to maintain their current league status due to high travel costs and mandatory changes to their infrastructure.

Blackfield & Langley were 18th in Southern Premier League South, five points above the relegation zone, before the coronavirus pandemic cut their campaign short. They had also booked their place in the Southampton Senior Cup final which was due to take place at St Mary’s Stadium after a 3-0 victory over Bashley in the last four.

The FA has yet to respond to their request, so it remains unclear in which division they will be placed next season.

Vice-chairman Hans McDonald has been involved with the club for 35 years, and he explained that the decision was not an easy one. He told the A&T: “It breaks my heart what we have to do for the football club.

“The committee has put in so much hard work over the past three years.

“This isn’t about football. This is about ground grading and travelling costs. A bigger budget is something we can’t afford at the moment.”

A new beginning

However, with new player-manager Fawzi Saadi taking over alongside assistant coach Ryan Ship, Blackfield remain optimistic about their future and believe they can remain competitive in the upcoming campaign.

McDonald added: “We are going down to build up again.

“I’ve got the confidence in these lads to do just that. There is no doubt Fawzi and Ryan can get a team together to compete in the Southern League, but it’s all the things that go with it.”

Saadi, who played for Blackfield last season and is also AFC Bournemouth U12 coach, will take over the role from former manager Glenn Howes.

In his first men’s managerial position, he told the A&T he is looking forward to getting underway: “In a way, it feels strange because I’ve never done it before, but at the same time I am very excited. I love being challenged and taking them ahead.

“We are very ambitious. Blackfield is a winning club, and we are used to that. We have won two promotions in a row so the aim for us this year is to do well in the league and cups.”

Blackfield & Langley’s Fatah Makhloufi takes on AFC Totton captain Jack Masterson in their FA Cup clash. Photo: Les Chase

Ship joins Saadi as his assistant manager after leaving his coaching post at Sydenhams Premier side Lymington Town. He added that the club is looking for players to keep pushing the side forward: “We want players that enjoy playing football not who are just there to pick up their wages.

“We want them to come and work hard because we believe, as a club, we can achieve great things. But it needs to be that drive from everyone, not just two or three players.”

The “right mentality”

Saadi added that he is looking to bring in players with the “right mentality and a good attitude”. When asked about his role as a player, Saadi said: “I’ll choose the games that I play in.

“For me, I had to choose carefully who I wanted as an assistant. I will be leading the boys on the pitch, but it is impossible to manage and play at the same time.

“The aim for me is to manage the boys and to make them better players, and to do that I have to watch them.”

Vice-chairman McDonald said the club has full confidence in their new appointment. He added: “Fawzi has a good attitude and he played for the club last year. He never let anyone down. I like his attitude to the type of football he wants to play, which was the biggest point.”

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