Truro City manager Paul Wotton has revealed he is ‘devastated’ after the club had a potential promotion stolen away from them – something he hinted would have been the highest point of his career.
During his maiden season at Treyew Road, Wotton inherited a Truro side recently relegated out of National League South, under new ownership and with just six players to their name.
Defying predictions that the White Tigers would be facing another relegation battle, the former Plymouth Argyle and Yeovil Town midfielder not only steadied the ship, but led the Cornish club to the top of the Southern League Premier Division – a point clear of second place Chesham United with two games in hand.
However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic prompted the Football Association to scrap the 2019-20 campaign entirely, with the knock-on effect being no promotion or relegation through steps three to six of the National League System, leaving clubs like Truro high and dry.
“To be honest it is just a feeling of utter disappointment,” Wotton told The Independent. “Everyone at Truro, least of all myself, understands that we are living in crazy and unprecedented times. I am completely aware of the crisis that is going on but that doesn’t mean that I can’t feel aggrieved at this decision. I think [the FA] have been a bit premature in their decision making. We are not even in April yet.
“The heartbreaking thing is the work that has gone on at that football club with the new owners, new manager, new players and to be where we were in the league far exceeded expectations. We were being tipped to get relegated. The blood and sweat that went in is for nothing. I don’t know if the FA truly understands the repercussions of us not getting promotion. I am devastated for the supporters and the players because they have been magnificent. I am confident we would have gone on to win it but there are no guarantees. Everywhere has to be null and void, including the Premier League but it is not going to be is it? They are the big boys with the big money. I definitely feel aggrieved. What are they going to do at step three [Southern League]? Are they going to take the FA to court? Of course they are not.
“There is a case of that is the decision, get on with it and, ultimately, that is what we have to do. The new owners of the football club have been magnificent – if you could write a book about this season, honestly, it would be a bestseller. It is tough work, especially building the club up from where it was after relegation and only having six contracted players. We have dealt with the wettest winter in history and trying to get games on has been a nightmare. As soon as the sun comes out, the season is null and void. It is hugely frustrating. The problem is in life, when you feel something is not fair, it is hard to let go of it.”
Wotton said the feeling in the dressing room – which includes 19-goal Golden Boot elect Tyler Harvey as well as a number of local youngsters and more experienced loanees such as Ryan Dickson – was ‘really low’.
“It takes a while to get over things like this. I don’t know if [the FA] think of this when they make these decisions. I have to stress, it is not an easy decision. I don’t understand it and I don’t agree with it but, if you are asking me what I would have done, I genuinely don’t know.
“I think they had more time. There is only a certain percentage of clubs that this affects. Anyone who is bottom of the league is going to be made up. For anyone that is midtable, it doesn’t matter, so it is only going to be teams at the top who are going to feel aggrieved.
“We have had huge success with our loan signings this year and have got to pay them all for April. We have got players on contracts too but they are pretty much all out on May 2 – although we have options on a few. These are all discussions that need to be had. We don’t know when the league is going to start again. It is such a grey area. It is not as if they have null and void the league and said it will be starting again in August. We don’t know where we stand.
“We have got a few friendlies set and a couple with Football League teams but they might still be playing in June. I consider myself very well-organised and I like to be on top of things but, at the minute, it is impossible to plan for anything. I have got players I would like to sign from other teams but you can’t have discussions with them because you don’t know what is happening.”
Eighteen years ago this week, Wotton captained Argyle to the Division Three title with a record 102 points and was named in the PFA ‘Team of the Year’. However, the 42-year-old says winning promotion with Truro would have exceeded that.
“They are brilliant memories, they were really great times. To be part of any promotion winning team is the pinnacle. That is what you play sports for. We all get addicted to that feeling of winning and get so low when we lose. To win the league was amazing but, I have to say, if we got promoted with Truro this year that would have surpassed it because I see them as my lads. I signed them all, they are my boys. I am gutted for them but you have to bounce back.
“I am contracted [for next season] but everyone’s head is up in the air at the moment. You try to get through it day by day and then you get a decision like that [on Thursday]. The lads are phoning me to ask what is going on. The worst thing is that I haven’t got answers for them. It is difficult for everyone. It is not about Paul Wotton, it is about Truro, the supporters, the board, hospitality, everyone. There are a lot of people in the world that are a lot worse off than us at the minute and we are very conscious of that. It is just trying to clear our heads and trying to stay calm when everyone else is getting a bit irate.”