Craig Denton says his Worksop Town squad is in high spirits ahead of the start of their league campaign - despite the end of their long-standing winning run and two players leaving the club this week.
Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Melton Town in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup was the Tigers first defeat since 22nd December 2018 and ended a run of 22 consecutive victories in competitive action.
It saw Worksop clinch a NCEL League and Cup double.
But last season’s skipper, Daniel Patterson, will not be part of the squad this campaign after the club confirmed the midfielder had been released for his refusal to take part as a second-half substitute against Melton.
While marksman Matt Sykes has left the club due to personal reasons and Denton, though disappointed to see him leave, understood the reasons for wanting to join a club closer to home.
“He lives an hour and 20 minutes away from the ground [Sandy Lane],” said Denton. “So to get to training and games was difficult and he’s been given an opportunity to play on his doorstep.
“It was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse so we’ll lose Matt Sykes and we wish him all the best. It’s unfortunate, we’re obviously gutted about it, but he just can’t commit to the club at this stage.”
But the Worksop boss felt let down by Patterson.
“No player at Worksop Town will refuse to go on the field and play for the football club,” said Denton. “It’s irrespective if you’re club captain, we’re winning or losing, or what people are saying.
“No-one under my reign at the football club can refuse to put the shirt on - it’s not acceptable.
“We’ve had to move him on.”
And added: “I was really disappointed because I wasn’t there. I personally feel let down by Danny.
“We’ve had those conversations, he’s apologised, but I’ve got to consider all the players in the squad.
“I can’t solely concentrate on one or two players.
“I’ve got 22 players who were at training last night [Wednesday]. They’re positive and in high spirits.
“I’ve got to focus on the players who want to play for this football club.”
The timing might be seen as far from ideal in the days leading up to the club’s return to Northern Premier League football in the South-East Division, but Denton would rather know now than mid-season.
“It’s a godsend that it’s happened early and not half-way through the season,” he said. “There are players who I am always looking at to strengthen the squad.
“I’ll look at what I’ve got and their attitudes on Saturday and if we do have to add anyone then I will.
“I don’t want to be too negative around player departures but it might be a godsend that players who can’t commit to this football club, for whatever reason, have left early.
“It gives me the time and opportunity to work with the players that I have got and be really positive moving forward from this week.”
Denton won’t rush to bring in replacements for recent player departures - instead giving players already at the club the chance to stake a claim.
He said: “We’ve got the resources to bring in players if we need to.
“But I’ll stick by my principles as a football manager - I’m very loyal, show lots of respect to my players and expect that in return.
“I’ll give opportunities to the players who have helped us get to this league and helped this football club get to this level.
“I’m humble and respectful and I’ll give the players the opportunity.
“If I feel like I need to add to the group then I will and that will create competition.
“The group I’ve got now are a fantastic bunch of loyal and committed players who want to be here for the football club.
“They want to play week-in and week-out.
“I saw their commitment to the club last night at training.”
And added: “I know some people might see the player departures as having a negative effect on the group but in reality, it’s done the exact opposite.
“It’s brought our group really close together, we’re all positive and champing at the bit to go in there on Saturday.
“The lads are in great spirits and the camp is positive and strong.
“With the players we had last season and the ones we’ve brought in this summer, I don’t expect anything different.
“They’re all great characters and hard-working lads who want to play for the club.”