Departing AFC Hoxne boss Jamie Scales has backed his successor Ben Wilby to help the club avoid the drop in their first season of senior football.
The village side gained promotion to the Touchline Suffolk & Ipswich League (SIL) Senior Division for the first time in their history at the weekend, following a dramatic final day of the season.
After thrashing bottom side Ipswich Valley Rangers 14-0 in their game in hand, Hoxne went into their last game of the season just two points adrift of Sporting 87 in the final promotion place in Division One.
And after Scales’ side pulled off an impressive 3-1 win against already-crowned champions Benhall St Mary, a nervy wait followed to find out the result of Sporting’s game with Claydon.
A late goal condemned Sporting to a 1-0 defeat as Hoxne moved up to second place and with it their third promotion in six seasons under the tutelage of manager Scales, who recently announced he was stepping down at the end of the season.
Ben Wilby, the manager of the club’s reserves, will take over in the hot seat starting from next season, and Scales believes his replacement can make sure their stay in the SIL’s top flight is not a short one.
“I’m absolutely confident he’ll be fine,” said Scales. “I think Ben will take over and do a great job. Ben’s been the reserves manager for the last five years and has won four promotions and two titles.
“Whether it was me still in charge, or Ben, the target for next season in the Senior Division will be to avoid relegation.
“The club have never been there before. They’re delving into the unknown.
“But from what I can make out, the players are staying on next season and I see no reason why they can’t do well.”
Since being appointed manager in 2011, Scales has guided Hoxne to three promotions, from Division Three to the Senior Division, as well as a Suffolk Junior Cup triumph at Portman Road last season.
The departing boss describes his six years at the helm as a ‘fairytale’ and said there are ‘a million people to thank’ for helping the club rise through the leagues.
“There are lots of people who have worked hard behind the scenes and, it doesn’t matter how much enthusiasm you can have as a manager, you can’t do much without the players being on board,” he said.
“You don’t get promoted to senior football by chance. Yes, we did get lucky on the final day, but we’ve come from the doldrums of Division Three to get where we are now.”