‘We’ve not been happy since day one’

Departed Hastings United manager Dom Di Paola said he and his management team hadn’t been happy at the football club since day one.

Departed Hastings United Football Club manager Dom Di Paola. Picture courtesy Joe Knight
Departed Hastings United Football Club manager Dom Di Paola. Picture courtesy Joe Knight

Along with his three-man backroom team of Jan Miller, Ian Browne and Adam Westwood, Di Paola stood down on New Year’s Day after less than three months in charge of the Ryman Football League Division One South club.

Di Paola voiced his dissatisfaction at matters beyond his control, but the club countered his claims.

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He said: “We have been thinking about this for the best part of six weeks. In truth we have not been happy since day one, but have tried to battle through and just get through it but that is not in our nature. We came in to do a good job and create something successful and long term, and we do not think that is possible currently.

“We do not feel that we have been able to operate the way we have always found to be successful. We feel that things out of our control have meant we are compromising everything we believe to be right and that we are not the right people for the way the club is currently operating.

“Week on week we are having little or no impact and that is reflected in performances, and we don’t want to be associated with a team that is not in our vision of how we want a team to operate. When we came in we believed that the club wanted what we were about, we don’t think this anymore.”

Di Paola stressed that results hadn’t caused him to resign. He won four, drew four and lost five of his 13 league matches in charge, as well as winning one and losing two of his three cup games.

“I have to make it clear it is not results that have caused us to resign,” Di Paola continued. “We knew we would struggle this season and the best we could expect is a small rise in the table, but even now I don’t think we have any danger of going down as when full strength and with the 2-3 new players who were coming in, we would have been fine.

“I am certain this league is winnable, and with the right players, right fitness, right coaching, right preparation and right training, we could do very well.”

Di Paola was the unanimous choice of a selection panel tasked with selecting a replacement for Terry White, who stepped down after an indifferent start to a campaign in which promotion was United’s clear objective.

The former East Preston boss achieved back-to-back wins against Guernsey and East Grinstead Town in his first two games, but oversaw just three more victories in 14 subsequent fixtures.

“I think in hindsight we allowed hearts to rule heads when making the decision to go down there,” Di Paola went on. “In saying that, we would have always regretted not giving it a go.

“The potential is unbelievable at the club and that really appealed to our ambitions. The support from fans has been brilliant and there are some truly great people down there.

“I am shocked how many private messages and tweets I have had from people saying they are sad that we have left and they are the people I feel most for.”

Brighton-based Di Paola said that travelling wasn’t a problem and the 33-year-old is desperate to get back into management.

He added: “I have been running sides 10 years and this is the first time we have been out of a job in all that time, it’s going to kill me!

“Ryman is the place to be as far as I’m concerned. I’ve loved the league and the challenges of playing against all sorts of different styles of teams and tactics. I’m certain with the contacts we have and at the right club we could do very well.”

A club statement read: “Having noted Dom’s comments about his reasons for resigning, he appears to suggest that he was dissatisfied by a number of things beyond his control, but then seems to mention only one issue in particular, that of training.

“When he interviewed for the role, it was made very clear to Dom that it would only be possible to use The Pilot Field for training sessions once every couple of weeks on average, and that its availability would be restricted by any scheduled under-21 and youth team fixtures.

“Dates were always confirmed well in advance and the club honoured all of these, with Dom cancelling one session himself, but it is simply impractical for the pitch to be overused, as this would inevitably result in a heightened risk of Saturday fixtures being postponed and vital revenue being lost.

“Multiple alternative locations for training were sourced, but the club was regrettably let down by two of these venues, and the desperate lack of suitable facilities in Hastings sadly exacerbated the problem.

“An AstroTurf pitch in Bexhill was booked, but this was deemed to be inadequate, and although Dom did find somewhere in Eastbourne that met with his approval, and the club ultimately agreed to meet its additional, unbudgeted cost, he has departed before making use of it.

“However, state of the art facilities hardly seem necessary for basic fitness levels to be maintained. Collective and individual responsibility alone should be sufficient for players to stay fit enough to perform at the job for which they are being paid, and overseeing this detail is one of the fundamental aspects of the manager’s role.

“And given that the playing budget remains at a level that would be the envy of many Ryman Premier sides, let alone Division One South, it is disappointing that the club should stand accused of somehow letting Dom and his backroom team down in this respect.

“The directors are all hugely frustrated at the situation in which the club finds itself once again, but we really don’t know what more we can do, other than continue to search for the right management team to bring about an upturn in fortunes.”