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David Hennessey steps up at Long Melford not looking to make wholesale changes but determined to make the most of relegation reprieve



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Newly-appointed Long Melford manager David Hennessey says they will be ready to grab the opportunity afforded by a relegation reprieve with both hands – and he does not anticipate a big turnaround to avoid the same result.

The FA’s league allocations for 2022/23 confirmed The Villagers will remain at Step 5, in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, despite finishing second from bottom in a position ‘liable to relegation’.

But 32 points from 38 matches meant their points-per-game ratio of 0.84 was not the worst across the country and therefore enough to see them avoid demotion along with three other clubs.

Long Melford's new first-team manager David Hennessey Picture: Long Melford FC
Long Melford's new first-team manager David Hennessey Picture: Long Melford FC

And Hennessey, who was announced as stepping up from managing Melford’s reserve team – whom he joined two years ago – to be Jamie Bradbury’s first-team successor last Wednesday, is determined to make the most of it.

The 42-year-old, said: “Obviously we want to be playing at the highest level possible but also from a cynical perspective we appreciate the money that comes from competing at this level.

“We are a small club and we don’t have much money when it comes to competing with some of the other teams in our league.

Long Melford's former manger Jamie Bradbury stepped down following the final game of a disappointing season Picture: Mecha Morton
Long Melford's former manger Jamie Bradbury stepped down following the final game of a disappointing season Picture: Mecha Morton

“So having FA Cup ties and Vase ties and things like that is important. But it is also important to the fans and the players.”

He added: “Jamie did a cracking job of keeping us in this division for as long as he did and he’s a good sounding board for us.

“Obviously if we had of dropped down we would have been disappointed but we would have got on with it.

“But now the reprieve has happened and historically there have been a fair few teams handed reprieves in this league and it’s our turn this time.

David Hennessey is not looking to oversee a big turnaround of players for his first campaign as first-team manager Picture: Mecha Morton
David Hennessey is not looking to oversee a big turnaround of players for his first campaign as first-team manager Picture: Mecha Morton

“We are going to grab it with both hands and make sure we show everyone next year we are there on merit and not just a charity case.”

He pointed to the fact that Bradbury’s side had drawn a league high 14 matches as a reason why there will not need to be wholesale changes to the squad this summer to achieve the safety of a mid-table finish.

Hennessey, a head of marketing who lives in Colchester but previously spent a decade honing his football management skills in the Hackney & Leyton League in London, said: "If you look at our form guide last year, picking up 14 draws, more than anyone else in the league, was basically the reason we found ourselves where we were.

"Now if we can eek out another 15 to 20 per cent from those tight games and turn four or five of those into wins we're suddenly well clear of that relegation zone and in that mid-table area. We can then kick on and play with a bit more freedom.

"I'm sure, as whenever there is a new manager, there may be boys that move on and we're realistic about that.

"We've got some very good players in the reserves and the under-18s that we will continue to develop and as the future of Long Melford.

"But if there is a player or two that either I can bring in or my coaching staff can bring to our attention or wants to play for Melford and have an opportunity at Step 5 (we can give them that).

"We are uniquely positioned as a club without a lot of money that we can give boys an opportunity at Step 5 that other clubs may not potentially give them."

Hennessey is yet to formally name his backroom staff but said there will be a bigger team across the club which is also set to now include a specialist goalkeeper coach.

He also said his predecessor Bradbury and also departed assistant Steve Chisholm would be on hand to be sounding boards in what is his first senior appointment.

Meanwhile, Cornard United and Haverhill Borough were also handed relegation reprieves after finishing in the bottom three of the First Division South.

But they will return to play in the more familiar surroundings of the First Division North in 2022/23 following a lateral transfer along with AFC Sudbury Reserves.