Laird thanks fans after ‘bizarre’ week

Craig Laird.

Craig Laird. - Credit: Archant

A WEEK is a long time in football according to one of the sport’s oldest clichés, but the national game has seen few like that experienced in Weston.

Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at promotion rivals Eastleigh was overshadowed by a tumultuous week off-the-field which saw the manager sacked, and then sign a two-year contract within 24 hours.

Craig Laird, who led Weston to a best-ever seventh-place finish in the Conference South last season, was axed on Monday night.

Anger from current and former players was replaced with joy on Tuesday, as the news filtered through that he would be staying.

Laird said: “I had a meeting with the chairman and we couldn’t agree on a couple of points with the budget and he wanted me to sign a contract. We couldn’t get our heads together and hence the reason I believe I was sacked. I didn’t want to leave.

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“Chairman Paul Bliss didn’t want me to be a free agent and I can understand where he was coming from.

“It was a bit out-of-character from both of us not to find some sort of compromise.

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“Paul felt I should have a contract. I have worked here for three years without one and I was quite happy with that.

“I’m not one to just jump ship and I think I have proved that. It’s only because my stock has risen, I think he needs to protect my services I guess.”

On Monday his two Somerset Premier Cup successes looked set to be consigned to the history books, until the fans got their wish and Laird signed a new deal on Tuesday afternoon.

Laird said the fans’ backing was instrumental in him returning for talks with the chairman.

Fans called the decision a ‘joke’ while current forward Chaz Hemmings labelled the situation a ‘shambles’.

In an online poll almost 90 per cent of Mercury readers said they were unhappy with the decision. But by Tuesday the Scot had sensationally returned, signing a two-year contract with the club.

In an exclusive interview with the Mercury, Mr Laird said the fans convinced him to stay. He said: “The support has been overwhelming and one of the reasons I came back to renegotiate was all the goodwill gestures.

“The support was unbelievable and it did take me back a bit.

“It is nice to know because it is an endorsement of the work you do. It’s been a bizarre week to say the least.”

He added: “Paul has done a fantastic job for this club and it needs to be recognised. But we are still one of the lowest paid clubs in the league and I will always fight the players’ cause.”

With Laird back as manager, fans are once again dreaming of promotion, although the Seagulls’ bid was not helped by defeat at second-place Eastleigh.

The home side had the better of the first half and Weston were indebted to a fantastic penalty save from Lloyd Irish for keeping it scoreless at the break.

However the pressure told on the hour-mark as Ben Wright beat Irish to hand Eastleigh the lead.

Jai Reason made amends for his spot-kick woe by doubling the lead in the 64th minute by cutting in from the left and firing home.

Two goals in four minutes looked to have sealed the game until Chaz Hemmings pulled one back just three minutes later.

Dayle Grubb’s deep cross was well finished by Hemmings to put the Seagulls in sight of a point.

However substitute Craig McAllister sealed the win for Eastleigh by lobbing an advancing Irish with 14 minutes left.

The Seagulls remain in fifth place and welcome relegation-threatened Whitehawk on tomorrow (Sat) at 3pm as the club try to focus on football again.

Laird does not believe boardroom disputes will affect the players’ performance. He said: “I will speak to the players and hopefully it wont have an adverse effect on our season. I think it will actually bring us closer together.”

A fans’ forum at the Woodspring Stadium has been arranged though for Sunday at 11am as the board seeks to explain one of the most remarkable weeks in Weston’s history.

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