THE last manager to taste success with Spalding United is urging them to accept relegation as a challenge to prove themselves.
Dick Creasey warned: “If they are not careful, they will dwindle away in the United Counties League.
“The problem is that the club has been in the doldrums for so long now.”
The Tulips, who are looking likely to finish bottom of Evo-Stik League Division One South, are almost certain to be relegated from Step Four of the non-league pyramid but will not know their fate for a few weeks.
Creasey, now a director at Wisbech Town, was the man who led the Tulips to the UCL Premier Division title in 2003. They also won the East Anglian Cup and Len Pick Memorial Trophy that season.
But it’s been very much a downward spiral since that point with the Tulips consistently finishing near the foot of the higher division. Despite twice finishing in relegation places, they have escaped the drop due to other club’s misfortunes.
Creasey said: “I think the time has come for them to be relegated and show what they are worth, but it’s not going to be easy.
“I’ve seen quite a few UCL games this season and there is going to be some tough competition next time around.
“One of St Neots or King’s Lynn won’t be going up then you’ve got John Chand at Holbeach United, whom I fully expect to build a strong squad, I’m hearing good things about Boston Town and Tuncay Korkmaz at Deeping will want to have a real go too.
“If they go into the UCL next season, some of the Tulips’ biggest challenges will be on their doorstep.
“Spalding have to make sure they are right in there.”
Andy Stanhope is a close friend and former player of Creasey’s, who has told the Tulips’ boss not to expect anything to be easy next season.
Creasey said: “I’m not telling you anything I haven’t already told Stan – the planning, build-up and start to the season is crucial.
“He’s got to get across to the players that they have to be competitive in the UCL.
“I’m sure he’ll have a good go at it. He’s got some good people around him – nobody knows the UCL better than Bob Don-Duncan.”
Creasey, who quit suddenly as Tulips boss in November 2004, believes that he “pushed the squad a little too quickly”.
His most notable achievement – other than delivering chairman Chris Toynton’s desire to win the UCL championship (something which he had also done with Holbeach United the previous season) – was to take the Tulips to within one win of reaching the FA Cup first round proper.
Although he hasn’t seem them play for a while, he still has affection for the club.
He said: “I think you feel fond of every club you manage.
“I really do hope the club does well next season.
“They cannot keep going with crowds of 65 to 70. They have to get back to winning again and get the fans back behind them.”
Stanhope was a key part of the two sides which Creasey led to back-to-back UCL titles in 2002 and 2003. He is now planning to mark the ten-year anniversary of the Carter’s Park triumph with a similar celebration at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field.