NEIL Middleditch is confident owner Matt Ford will leave Pirates “in safe hands” – when he eventually ends his trophy-laden stint with the club.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Echo in September, Ford admitted he would be “very keen” to enter discussions over a sale if the “right offer” were to be lodged.

Anthony Tilley and Danny Ford were then brought in as promoters and Ford senior – who is pursuing new business interests in France – admitted the duo “could give us an option for the future”.

Team manager Middleditch, who has flanked Ford senior for no fewer than 20 seasons and eight league titles, is adamant Poole will be well looked after when the time comes for the boss to depart.

And he has no doubt Ford senior will be totally committed for the rest of his tenure.

Middleditch told the Daily Echo: “In this day and age, you don’t need to be hands on in every meeting. With computers and everything, Matt can run things from France.

“I think he’s planning to come to every home meeting this year and if we have a good season and get in the play-offs, I’m sure Matt will be here for the whole of that time.

“He’s got other things on his mind but will leave the club in safe hands. He’s had 20 seasons with the Pirates and still loves the club dearly.

“It will be a strange season and I’ve always said that when Matt leaves the club, I will leave as well and I think that still stands.

“We have had such a good relationship over the years and it would be very tough for me to work alongside someone else.

“I’m not getting any younger but I still love it. I wouldn’t have done it for this long if I didn’t. But there comes a time."

Pirates’ SGB Premiership title defence will be spearheaded by Aussie trio Jack Holder, Brady Kurtz and Josh Grajczonek.

They will be joined by popular Dane Nicolai Klindt and Britain’s Richie Worrall, as well as reserve duo Nico Covatti and Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen.

Middleditch believes Swindon – led by Jason Doyle – and Hans Andersen’s Peterborough could be potential contenders for the crown.

But he stressed it was too early to make a judgment call just yet.

Middleditch said: “Swindon look good and Peterborough look good. But people always ask me which teams impress me at the start of the season and the reality is you don’t know.

“After six or seven meetings, you will have a better feel for what’s going to happen.

“You will see which people have been training hard over the winter and not training hard over the winter and that will reflect in their early-season form.”

Both Fords and Tilley will take questions from supporters at the next Riders' Equipment Fund social night at Wimborne Road on Wednesday, March 20.

Pirates presenter Nigel Leahy will host the event and the cost of entry will be £4 for REF members and £5 for non-members.