07:00PM, Thursday 04 March 2021
Neil Baker and Jon Underwood will sit down with vice chairman Craig Edwards and the club’s steering committee in the coming weeks to discuss the Rebels’ playing budget for next season.
But with non-league football still shrouded in uncertainty due to COVID-19, Baker confirmed the club would be taking a precautionary and prudent approach to their planning.
Baker admitted there was a great deal of relief felt when the league confirmed that clubs in National League South had voted for the campaign to be terminated and declared null and void.
The club were charged for failing to fulfil recent fixtures, but Baker says his gut feeling is the Rebels will escape with a slap on the wrist and a warning rather than a points penalty or a financial sanction.
It means the managers’ focus has now shifted towards planning for next season and Baker admitted the club will be very wary about tying players down to contracts in the current climate.
“There’s still a lot of uncertainty left,” he said. “You only have to see today’s news of a new Brazilian variant that’s come into the UK to see that.
“We’ll be sitting down with Craig in the next week or two to get a rough idea (of a playing budget for next season). We’ll be sensible as a club and make sure there are no liabilities for us because there’s no guarantee that next season will run smoothly.
“We have to accept that there could be issues and we need to protect the club. We must make sure as managers, and the steering group, as custodians, that we don’t over commit anything and make sure we’re in a stable position.”
Baker and Underwood have already begun the process of identifying and speaking with potential new recruits, as well as deciding which of the current squad they want – or are able to hold onto - for next season. Baker said they won’t be pushing for a large budget that would enable them to challenge for promotion, but he’s confident enough in the squad, and their own management capabilities, of being competitive in every game they play. While the Rebels would be punching above their weight if they were to put themselves back in promotion contention, Baker said they don't plan to consolidate either, despite going through what’s been a ‘car crash of a campaign’.
“We won’t be pushing the club to say we’ve got to do this or that,” said Baker. “We’ll be working with them to formulate our plans. Jon and I have already started talking about players and the current squad and deciding what we want to do. We’ll also work closely with the u23s and may have some trial games and look to bring some of them into the fold. We’ll just have to work as hard as we can to put ourselves in the best possible position, we can be in. it’s been a crazy, crazy 12 months.”
Baker admitted they may have to play the waiting game to bring in certain players and could miss out on targets due to the club’s unwillingness to hand out big contracts. They may also look to bring in more loan players from pro clubs as well as players from the u23s squad. Whatever happens, Baker said it won’t change his or Jon’s aspirations to keep the club moving forward.
“We’ve got to be very careful about offering up contracts,” he said. “Because of the uncertainty we don’t want to be lumbered with those. So, we might have to hold tight and wait for players at the end.
“There will be players who have been with us and know how we do things and trust that. But when you’re going for someone who doesn’t know you and you’re trying to persuade them to come and sign for you on a non-contract basis versus someone who will offer them the security of a contract, it’s going to be difficult.
“But we want to be competitive, and we want to have a good changing room of players who want to be here and will work hard for each other. It won’t happen overnight and it might be that we have to wait until July or even August to get our squad together.”
He added: “But it will never change mine or Jon’s aspirations. We’ll always look to put together a side that can compete.
“At no point have we ever said we should be in the play-offs or doing this or that. We managed that last season, but we had no right to be in those play-offs, whatever people think. We got there through hard work and togetherness and these are the types of things we’ll need to achieve that sort of success again because I can tell you now, we’ll not be one of the top payers in the league.
“We may look at loans from pro clubs and have a number of good contacts there. We’ll do what we can to balance the budget.
“Once we had the knowledge the season would be ended it was a big relief to us because the season has been an absolute car crash. It’s not been enjoyable and now we can focus on looking forward to next season with fans back in because if there are no fans back in then the season won’t be starting, that’s for sure.”
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