Hadleigh’s boss targets top-eight

NEW Hadleigh United manager Stuart Crawford is setting his sights on a top-eight finish in the Ridgeons League Premier Division next season.

NEW Hadleigh United manager Stuart Crawford is setting his sights on a top-eight finish in the Ridgeons League Premier Division next season.

Crawford was unveiled at the club’s end-of-season presentation evening last night as successor to Peter Grant, who mutually agreed to leave the Brettsiders after just one season in charge – the club’s first in the top flight after a 12-year absence.

The 29-year-old, who started and finished his Ridgeons League career at Hadleigh and was shortlisted for the post when Grant was appointed as Steve Jay’s successor, said he was delighted to land the job this time.

Crawford said: “I can’t wait to get going. As I am fresh out of playing I have plenty of contacts, so getting a decent squad together should be easier for me now than if I was entering management in ten years’ time.

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“We won’t have a massive budget, but if I can get the right players into the club my target will be to try to finish in the top eight. I think it will be a more even league next season and with our facilities I think we will be an attractive team to join.”

Former Hadleigh United manager Alan Dilloway, who last season was assistant to Ian Brown at Whitton United, will be assistant to Crawford, who will also be appointing a new coach.

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After six years at Ipswich Town’s Centre of Excellence as a youngster, during which time he played in a couple of youth team matches, Crawford was released and signed YTS forms for Lincoln City, where John Beck was the manager.

Injury problems hampered his development in his second season, and although he was offered a third year Crawford declined and returned to Suffolk and joined Hadleigh.

He subsequently also played for Felixstowe, Stanway Rovers, AFC Sudbury, Long Melford, Needham Market, Walsham-le-Willows and Whitton, appearing in three successive Suffolk Senior Cup finals with three different clubs and twice ending on the winning side.

He returned to Hadleigh and helped them to win promotion from Division One, but last October snapped the cruciate ligament in his left knee – the same injury as he sustained two years previously - and called time on his playing career.

Crawford maintained his involvement with Hadleigh last season by stepping in to assist on match days when Grant or his assistant Gary Thompson were not available.

Hadleigh chairman Ken Ramsey, who said four applicants were interviewed for the post, stated: “We know Stuart has not got any experience as a manager, but he has got the drive and enthusiasm and a good rapport with players to be successful.”

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