Freeman and Jersey Bulls part ways

Heartbreak at Springfield Stadium as Jersey Bulls' dreams of promotion ended at the hands of visiting AFC Croydon Athletic Picture: ROB CURRIE

IT was a question posed by many during Jersey Bulls’ campaign this season – Will Gary Freeman still lead the side if they fail to obtain promotion?

The answer was no.

The club announced yesterday that Freeman, along with coaching staff Kevan Nelson, Richard Hebert and Dan Seviour had resigned from their posts just one day after their charges had fallen to AFC Croydon Athletic in the semi-final of the Combined Counties Premier Division South play-offs.

Football is so often a game characterised by fine margins, which rang true as the Londoners edged past Bulls 1-2 at Springfield Stadium.

Lorne Bickley – who enjoyed an excellent season in front of goal – saw his spot kick saved, while Croydon’s eventual winner was entirely of Bulls’ own making following a mix-up between Will Byers and goalkeeper Pierce Roche.

A distinctly emotional Freeman spoke about his future following the loss: “It’s certainly going to be a conversation that needs to be had.

“There is much more to it than just what happens on the pitch.

“All I can say is that I love working with this group of players.

“The bond they have to the team and each other is plain to see and being a part of that is something I am incredibly proud of.”

Freeman is the only manager the Islanders have had since their inaugural season in 2019–20, which saw the side earn 27 consecutive wins in Division One of the Combined Counties Football League [CCFL] before the pandemic curtailed the season.

With the following season also ending prematurely, Freeman would see his side venture into the Premier Division of CCFL, where they have remained for the last three seasons, finishing fourth, third and second respectively.

Despite the club’s most successful season to date, finishing in second, behind runaway winners Farnham, the new rules offering play-off spots between second and fifth took away the second automatic promotion spot that would ironically have seen the club promoted in years gone by.

In the outgoing manager’s letter to the board, he said: “I’d like to thank you all, for the fantastic opportunity to manage your club, it has been an unbelievable five years.

“So many wonderful memories that will stay with me for ever.

“The time, work, and effort everyone puts in largely goes unnoticed by others, but certainly not by me.

“You should be proud that you have built a football club that the Island is proud of, a place where coaches and players can grow and test themselves and the public can get behind and support.”

Freeman’s words were illustrated in abundance during the defeat to Croydon.

A packed audience draped in red continued to be heard to the very death of the fixture – unwavering in their support for their local club.

As senior figures slumped to the turf – their season over for another year – the crowd remained.

Unmoved, the chanting continued. The community knew what this meant to the players and their departure from the play-offs was certainly not through lack of effort.

Jersey Bulls chairman Russell Le Feuvre added: “Gary will always be a Jersey Bulls FC legend.

“He came into the unknown and embraced every challenge thrown at him and the club. It has been an amazing five years and from the start to where we are now is testament to him and his management teams’ dedication and the commitment, they have shown the club and the Island.”

It is yet to be seen which faces remain in Bulls colours next season, as the sun begins to set on a few of the more experienced members of the camp, but one thing is for certain, the club have captured the imagination of the local community, who have found a renewed reason to cheer at Springfield Stadium.

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