It’s not often you would hear of football clubs reluctant for promotion, but in Hampton & Richmond Borough’s case there’s an understanding to it.
Hampton have not played at the top of the non-league pyramid in their 99-year history, but when the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, they were tantalisingly close to a play-off spot in Vanarama National League South.
A promotion would see them enter the National League facing sides across the country rather than their current regional level and give manager Gary McCann a first taste of that division.
“No-one would turn down the opportunity to play in the National League, but I don’t think it’ll be an enjoyable time for anyone right now,” admitted McCann.
“You’re going into a division that will put a lot more demands on you financially, especially with travel.”
At present, Hampton’s furthest journey in National League South is a 120-mile trip to Weymouth, with ten of their away games within a comfortable 50 miles of their home stadium, the Beveree.
Eight of their ventures would be 200 miles or more one-way in the present National League, with an average journey of 123.71 miles according to theaa.com route planner.
While visits to Notts County’s Meadow Lane would be glamorous, the effects of the coronavirus could see fixtures in empty stadiums, which is another concern for the Boro’ boss.
“There will be no income,” said McCann. “There will be a big revenue going out that could make or break football clubs.
“Are clubs also going to benefit from a promotion that will see them have no time to recruit? I’ve seen that Italian leagues are looking to come back on June 20, finish two months later and start the next season in early September.
“If that sort of thing happens here I think it could be catastrophic for those teams promoted. You need different types of players in the league above.”
Impressive away form
The Beavers sat eighth in the table and three points shy of the play-offs with two games in hand before the season was cut short.
Over half of their points were collected on the road, and they had only failed to score in four league matches all season, the fewest blanks in National League South.
“We were looking at finishing sixth or seventh, meaning three away games to get promoted, but we wouldn’t have feared that,” said McCann, who took over two years ago last week.
He continued: “We had done quite a lot of work on counter-attacking play and had a lot of pace and hard-working players in the final third. It suited us if teams came at us a bit.
“It felt like there was an identity to our play and maybe served us a little better away from home.
“We were pleasing on the eye offensively, teams had to work doubly hard to keep us out. Managers were very complimentary about us.
“In the last two years our home form hasn’t been great. I think a lot of clubs enjoy playing at Hampton. We have a fantastic pitch, tidy ground, it’s a really nice place to visit.
“Maybe it doesn’t help us!”