Kirkley & Pakefield boss against step five reforms

KIRKLEY and Pakefield boss Paul Tong this week expressed fears at losing talented players under controversial plans to form a new Eastern Division.

With Kirkley set to be the hardest hit of all the Ridgeons League Premier Division clubs under the Football Association proposals, with an increase of 1,700 miles for games, K&P are one of 16 clubs against the move and have subsequently supported the alternative suggestion put forward by the Ridgeons League to create an East Anglia Division.

Last week The Journal reported how the Royals chairman Bob Jenkerson had highlighted his own concerns in being against the Football Association's proposals.

And these were reiterated by boss Tong this week. 'The Eastern Counties League and Ridgeons League has been one of the strongest leagues for years – why change it?' he told The Journal.

'In this economic climate the Step 5 reorganisation (to see K&P play in the Eastern Division) is not a move we would welcome. How can we expect players to get time off work with travelling being such an issue. A lot of people have families, and I fear what it will do is force more players to play locally,' he warned. 'It is a very difficult situation, but surely with these proposals you have to have an open mind – why change something so successful?'

Tong admitted the 'camaraderie' in the Ridgeons League among all the clubs proved that change was not needed.

'Everyone makes you welcome in this league, and that is a testament to the sides that play in it and the league itself,' he said. 'When you look back over the years at teams such as Sudbury, Lowestoft, Needham Market and Leiston – who have all gone to be successful – it is something I can't come to terms with.'

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With the Royals being inactive for three weeks, they took a squad of 18 for a friendly at Wroxham's Trafford Park on Wednesday night.

With K&P's last match being a 3-1 cup defeat against Dereham on January 31, come tomorrow, and an away trip to Stanway Rovers, it will be almost a month since their last competitive action.

K&P, in 16th, face a tough task at eighth-placed Stanway tomorrow, and the Royals boss is likely to again be without striker Russell Stock, who has suffered a setback in his comeback from injury.

'I stand by what I said a few weeks ago – we still need three more wins,' Tong said.

'Ryan De Coteau is on his way back from injury, having played for the reserves, while Ryan Crisp is continuing to be monitored by Ipswich Town after his recent trial.'

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