“WE will bounce back.” Those are the words of determined Basingstoke RFC director of rugby James Croker after his First XV side suffered relegation from National League Three London.
Croker is determined to keep the club moving in the right direction, and he has the full backing of chairman Dr Steve Tristram and other senior figures at the club.
Croker said: “I see this relegation as a blip to learn from. Of course, we are disappointed to go down, but when you look at the bigger picture, there are so many good things going on at the club.
“We are going in the right direction, and we will bounce back.”
’Stoke chairman Tristram said: “We are not going to panic, and being relegated will not be a disaster.
“James (Croker) has our backing, and he has achieved so much in his three years with the club.
“His enthusiasm for the game has rubbed off on other people, and we still have a Hampshire Cup final to look forward to next season.”
'Stoke’s relegation fate was sealed at the weekend as Barnes won their final game of the season, which made ’Stoke’s 61-21 loss to East Grinstead immaterial.
It was disappointing end to a season which in late November looked to be going so well after ’Stoke reeled off five wins in six games.
However, two wins in 12 games in 2014, and Barnes adding six players from London Scottish, saw them make the great escape and send Basingstoke back to London One.
’Stoke’s plight was also not helped by having an unsettled line-up due to injuries, unavailability and players who departed from the area.
’Stoke were also the only amateur side in National League London Three, but despite their relegation, this is not about to change.
Tristram said: “We have an ethos at this club not to pay players, while other clubs do. This is up to them and if it works for them all well and good.”
Croker remains upbeat and is already planning for next season.
He said: “We lost a lot of players during the year, but the guys that came in would have learnt a lot from playing in National Three.
“We may have been relegated, but we have players who can play at that level like Tim Richards, Ryan Davis and Freddie Gleadowe.
“We also have some players coming through from the academy and a couple back from London Irish, so it is already looking good for next season.”
He added: “We will look to recruit further from our demographic area. I want players to come and play for Basingstoke.”
’Stoke wrap up their season a week on Saturday at Down Grange, when they host the Hampshire Cup final against Havant.