Former professional footballer Tony Thorpe has described his first season in charge at Melton Town as his toughest in the game.
Thorpe was speaking following the departures of vice-captain Adam Bishop, leading scorer Ash Palfreyman and midfielder Shannon Myring.
He and co-manager Steve Hendey moved quickly to strengthen, bringing in centre-half Joe Cooper from Kirby Muxloe, on Tuesday, while Barrow Town midfielder Grant Ryder was expected to complete his move yesterday (Wednesday).
Thorpe, a £1 million player in his 17-year pro career, said: “This has been the hardest year for me in football in terms of dealing with certain players and dealing with the club as a whole.
“We have got some great people who work behind the scenes who deserve a lot of credit, but this is Melton’s first year at this level.
“It has been so tough, but also enjoyable which is why I’m still here.
“Joe just fell out of favour at Kirby and fancied a change of scene, and Grant is a tough-tackling midfielder which is a bit different to what we have.
“We have a lot of good footballers, but not enough players to mix things up.”
Bishop announced he was leaving the club shortly before Town’s home match with Stewarts and Lloyds on Saturday, while Myring signed off his final game for the club with a goal in the 4-1 win.
Both Bishop and Palfreyman, who is among the league’s leading scorers with 18 goals this season, have spent four years with Melton and helped them win promotion to the United Counties League.
“Initially I had made the decision to have some time out as work commitments were taking up a lot of time,” Bishop said.
“I felt like I needed the break, but since leaving I have had a few clubs talk to me and who knows where I will end up.
“My time at Melton has been absolutely amazing; everyone at the club digs in and gets involved. I probably played my best football at the club.
“The ambition of the club is second-to-none and they are moving forward in the right direction with Tony Thorpe at the heart of it.”
He added: “I do feel it is a real shame leaving the club after such a good four-year spell with them.
“I’m going to miss the banter on a Tuesday and Saturday with the lads, but certain circumstances made my decision to leave the club.
“I would like to wish all the boys luck for the last few games and really kick on to try and finish in the top six to qualify for the FA Vase for next season.”
It as been all change at Melton in recent weeks as the club adapts to the demands of a first season in step six football.
Since Hendey was invited to join the management team, defenders Tom Cooper and Levi Fray have returned to Melton, while Gav Williams and Mike Hendey have also been added.
Allied to the latest new faces, Thorpe believes a good squad is taking shape, particularly in defence where 58 goals have been leaked in 27 league matches.
“We can see light at the end of the tunnel and the club is going in the right direction,” he added.
“On Saturday we will have the strongest defence we have had all season.
“If we finish the first season in the top half the lads will have done brilliantly and I’m proud of them.
“If we can get five or six wins in the final nine games it will put us in good stead to kick on next season and really challenge.”