WHEN Bournemouth take to the field for a crucial clash on Saturday, it will be for the first time at home without former director of rugby Will Croker.

Lions welcome Westcliff to Chapel Gate, the only other National Two South side without a win this campaign.

But Croker will just be an interested spectator like any other, having suddenly left his role at the club a week ago following four straight defeats.

Explaining the situation, the club’s former head coach said: “We had a good team run at training and there was no real sense that it (his departure) was coming from my perspective.

“I'm really sad about this. It has upset me a lot. Bournemouth is my hometown club. I grew up playing colts rugby there. For me, there wasn't a better job in rugby.

“I've had approaching 50 messages from players being incredibly supportive explaining their disbelief that such a thing could have happened so early.”

It was only a few months ago that Croker’s side had been named Rugby World Magazine’s team of the year, having sealed promotion from South West Premier as champions at a canter last season.

“I think that's the thing that has surprised me most, is just how far the achievements of last year were recognised in the wider game,” he added.

“To have won the league by record margin, to be team of the year. It was a big thing for our club and it also seems to be a big thing in rugby terms.”

Despite parting company with the club, the former Lions boss looks back with pride on his achievements since taking the job in June 2015.

“Five years ago I got to a rugby club as a player,” he said. “That first training session there were 14 players there for the first-team run and about six or seven second-team players.

“It's a testament to the work the coaching team have done as a whole that the week I left we had 60 at training.

“That just goes to show a squad that was united, that wanted to play for one another and to work hard in training to fix the issues that we had.”

Despite his feelings, Croker remains a Bournemouth fan. He wants the team to win this weekend and knows it is a big chance for points.

Croker would also like to see the club stabilised and playing in National Two South again next season.

On Monday, Lions released a statement saying that a strategic review was underway with Richard Sharp stepping in as interim performance director, assisted by coach Jon Sanchez.

“I want to thank everybody at Bournemouth for their support and I'm looking forward to my next challenge. Wherever that is,” said Croker.

“I've got to dust myself down, take the lessons from it and think about what I do next. I've already spoken to friends and family about what I can commit to.

“The long and short is that I know that I'm a good coach. I'm established now and there is a reputation for the type of rugby that I'd like my teams to play.

“I’ve just got to try to decide what I want to do.”