NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Whittlesey Athletic are back where they belong after sealing return to PDFL Premier Division

PUBLISHED: 13:02 09 August 2017 | UPDATED: 15:02 09 August 2017

Whittlesey Athletic, led by manager Rick Hailstone (front row, third right), are back in the PDFL Premier Division.

Whittlesey Athletic, led by manager Rick Hailstone (front row, third right), are back in the PDFL Premier Division.

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Eleven months ago, Whittlesey Athletic was a club in turmoil.

Whittlesey will hope they can replicate the success of the 2015/16 season, which saw them win the PFA Senior Cup for the second successive season. Picture: MARK CHAMBERSWhittlesey will hope they can replicate the success of the 2015/16 season, which saw them win the PFA Senior Cup for the second successive season. Picture: MARK CHAMBERS

Without a manager and forced to withdraw from the First Division of the United Counties League over a funding dispute, it was left to the club’s reserve side to take the baton and fulfil its mission of returning the club to the PDFL’s top division.

And now, Athletic are back where they belong after their application for promotion was unanimously accepted by the league’s other members on Monday (August 7) and are looking to hit the ground running, according to co-chairman, Gary Munns.

“It was a unanimous vote and that sets us up nicely for the season ahead,” he said.

“We’ve had a good pre-season; we’ve beat Sleaford AFC, Netherton United and Huntingdon Town, so we’re looking ok. We’re just looking forward to our first fixture now.”

The new era at Athletic will begin under the guidance of new boss Rick Hailstone, who hit 14 goals for the reserves last season, and assistant and former Whittlesey stalwart, Simon Flanz.

“I spoke to Rick this week and he can’t wait for the start of the season,” Munns said.

“It’s his first job as a number one and he is an unbelievable asset to have at the club – not just on the pitch.

“His influence has allowed us to move forward, both on and off the pitch.

“Simon is another great appointment. Every time we’ve spoken over the last two years, the topic of conversation has always been about how Whittlesey are doing and how they can move forward.

“He’s been at Ramsey and it didn’t work out at Wisbech for him but for me, he’s always been destined to be at Whittlesey and I’m delighted he’s back where he belongs.”

And now that the club’s first team’s future has been secured, Munns has turned his attentions towards ensuring the success of its reserve side.

Whittlesey’s second-string finished in fourth in the PDFL Division One under Max Flintoft last term.

“Our aims have changed slightly in the last week,” Munns admitted.

“Our focus was to get the first team’s affairs out the way and now we’ve done that we can look at getting promotion for the reserves.

“They were in the promotion places last season so hopefully now they can get out of Division One and our A and B teams can progress too.”

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