05:39PM, Wednesday 11 January 2017
Photo of Mark Betts courtesy of Horsham Rebel Photography
Slough Town coaches Mark Betts and Jon Palmer have been parachuted in to help save Burnham from relegation after a new partnership was formed between the two clubs.
Results at The Gore haven’t improved after Gifton Noel-Williams’ short stint there as manager ended in November and, with the prospect of another relegation into Hellenic League Division 1 East looking increasingly likely, they’ve approached near neighbours Slough for assistance.
The academy coaches will take over management duties at Burnham for the remainder of this season and beyond and their objective is a simple one - save Burnham from relegation.
Betts said the pair were working tirelessly to make the squad as strong as possible for Saturday’s visit of second bottom Henley Town, who are just three points above the Blues in the table. They’re likely to use many of the players dual registered to Slough Town this season and Betts believes the link between the clubs will be a 'win-win' for all involved.
“We’re going to go in there and do what we can to keep the club up,” said Betts. “We’re not going to be shouting from the rooftops that we’re going to do this or do that. We’re just there to ensure that Burnham Football Club doesn’t get relegated.
“Burnham approached us about this and it’s quite an honour for the football club (Slough), for (joint managers) Neil Baker and Jon Underwood and the management team that they felt they could approach us and ask for assistance.
“We see it as a win-win situation for both teams. We’re going to be helping out a local club who a couple of seasons ago were in the Southern League Premier Division. I feel sorry for Malcolm (Higton, Burnham’s president) who has seen the team he helped built up screwed to the bottom of the Hellenic Premier Division.
“We’ll be working tirelessly this week to get as strong a side out as possible on Saturday. They needed some experienced players and we are desperate to get three points against Henley Town on Saturday. We’re going to take a look at the players that are on the books at Burnham. It’s not a case that those players will be packed off. We’re not coming to kick everyone out.”
It is not yet clear if director of football Luther Blissett will remain in his role, and continue to oversee Burnham’s plan to open a youth academy at The Gore. The former Watford striker, who was talking about the confidence he had in Burnham's players ahead of the Henley match just yesterday, appears to have been blindsided by the move and was due to speak with club president Malcolm Higton about his future this afternoon.
Reacting to the rumours Blissett said on Twitter: “Allegedly President has appointed Slough Town’s Mark Betts and signed 15 new players this morn. Before even contacting me. Budget?”.
Burnham confirmed the news in a statement and chairman Gary Reeves said: "I speak on behalf of the board when I say that Mark and Jon's appointment as joint first team managers is not only a positive stride forward for the club, but also an very exciting one.
"This also enhances the close links with Slough Town and forms a solid base to build on with our near neighbours.
"They both bring a wealth of knowledge and experience in the non-league enviroment and also in the local area around the club, that will only benefit Burnham Football Club and Mark is relishing the challenge ahead."
"We at Burnham are very excited by this appointment and Mark and Jon fully understand what we are trying to achieve and this will fit perfectly into the structure and vision of the club, and we are confident that we can force our way back up the Hellenic Premier Division after what has been a disappointing campaign so far. We are determined to put Burnham back on the football map in this area and its our aim to inspire the local community back into the club."
This weekend’s smart motorway closures on the M4 will be shorter than usual due to separate bridge works taking place in West Berkshire (Junctions 13-14)