GRAHAM Kemp has delivered a withering assessment of the Dorset non-league scene, insisting clubs need to look on their own doorstep for a solution to the demise.
Kemp was speaking as the county – once a powerhouse in the Wessex League – contemplated this season having no finishers in the top 10 for the first time since its debut campaign in 1987.
Defeat yesterday for Kemp’s Hamworthy United at Blackfield & Langley ended their hopes, while Christchurch, Poppies and Verwood have all failed miserably to threaten the top half during a dismal campaign.
Dorset’s four representatives in the Wessex Premier lock horns tomorrow – with Verwood hosting Poppies at Potterne Park (3pm) and Hamworthy United facing Christchurch at Hurn Bridge (7.45pm).
Kemp, a four-time winner of the title as a player, told the Daily Echo: “I think all the local clubs need to have a long, hard look at themselves because it is too easy to blame everyone else. Clubs without budgets will bemoan a lack of money but you have to ask what they do about it. And you have to ask whether the clubs with a budget spend it wisely.
“I would be very surprised if any club in Dorset could turn round at their end-of-season do and say they have had a good season. I don’t think there is anything for the local clubs to crow about. I’m a local lad and don’t want to shoot myself in the foot but I don’t think there is a lot to attract players to clubs around here.
“Christchurch have a decent pitch but Hamworthy, Verwood and Poppies all need to work on theirs. It is all very well saying you can use it to your advantage but that doesn’t make it right. Some of the facilities leave a lot to be desired and you can understand why players want to travel farther afield to play somewhere more appealing.
“Poppies and Verwood are grim places to play and are not going to attract players in the long-term. I don’t get excited about going to either of those grounds and our pitch needs a lot of work as well. It is beyond me how the DCFA see fit to play cup finals at the County Ground.
"I have heard some pathetic excuses, including the fact Sholing should not be in the division because they are a Southern League club. Everybody plays Sholing twice so what about the other 40 games?”
Kemp added: “You can’t just turn up on a Saturday and expect to be in the top five. You have to work hard for it and I don’t think local clubs have done that, otherwise we wouldn’t be in this situation. I certainly won’t look back at this season with any satisfaction and I am sure the others would say the same.”
Craig Feeney’s double did for Hammers at Blackfield & Langley, while Lee Wort plundered a hat-trick as Verwood, who had taken the lead through Jack Lovell, went down 4-1 at Sholing.
Goals from Chris Speers and Dan Saul earned Christchurch a 2-1 win over Horndean at Hurn Bridge, while Liam Jacobs’s maiden effort for Poppies proved a mere consolation as they lost 2-1 at Fareham.
Hammers: Thomas, Walker (Penny, h-t), Legg (Cole, 60), Haysom, Brian, Corby, Allen, Hubbard, Osborne, Cook, Martin (Diaper, h-t). Unused subs: Webb, Ackerman (g/k).
Poppies: Vaughan, Martinez, Jackson, Burgis, Jacobs, Robinson (Pearce, 85), Rowley, Ward, Bassiriki (Ayrton, 68), Hales, Phillips. Unused subs: Carr, Turner.
Potters: Lynch, Evans, Murray, Molyneaux, Gajic, Dyer, Joy (Rutten, 72) Hampton-Brown, Saxby, Lovell, Hill. Unused subs: Satterley, L Speechley-Price.
Ringwood, who host Division One neighbours New Milton today (3pm), halted an 11-game losing streak by winning 2-1 at Team Solent.