Non-league football: Manager Carl Heggs speaks frankly about Hinckley United
Not many people would envy the position Hinckley United manager Carl Heggs finds himself in.
His side are rooted to the bottom of the Blue Square Bet Conference North with just one point from 24 games, their last result a 6-0 thumping at the hands of leaders Chester.
Off the field, it makes equally grim reading.
Disputes over last season's unpaid wages mean they are bound by a transfer embargo, while the debt-ridden club's inability to pay off creditors saw them docked three points, giving Heggs nothing to show for their only league victory of the season.
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Heggs has somehow to find a way of putting all this debt and controversy aside and concentrate on keeping his side in the division.
"I have been involved in football for a long time," he said "If there's one thing I understand, it is that there is nothing that I can say, or do, that will change anything in the boardroom.
"Unless I win the lottery and decide to give them some money, there is no point me wasting any energy whatsoever in worrying or trying to contribute to anything that's happening in the boardroom because I have no control over it.
"What I have control over is making sure my players are fit and organised, and want to wear the shirt with pride and passion – that's my job.
"So, I don't get sucked into the politics of it all. My job is to get them ready and focused to play a football match."
Heggs admits the situation is worse than he had expected when he took over the reins full-time in November after the club's previous manager, Dean Thomas, resigned after 16 seasons in charge.
"I knew the football club was in a bit of difficulty, like most football clubs," said Heggs, who is in his third spell at Hinckley.
"I was aware there were some things that may have to take a back seat, but I didn't understand the full extent of the problems, I'll be honest.
"The football club is more important at the minute than the playing side of things because if you don't pay off the necessary bills, you don't have a football club, full stop.
"But I have never quit anything in my life, I have always seen things through to the bitter end."
Motivating his players is surely a hard task when they are not always being paid on time and have suffered 22 defeats from their 24 league games this season.
But Heggs says he has no problem keeping them fired up every week.
"I always keep myself motivated and that rubs off on everyone else," he said. "I wouldn't allow them to take the foot off the pedal.
"When the game starts, whether you're getting your money on time or not, once the whistle goes, you've got to give yourself every opportunity to be the best player on the pitch.
"I'm just trying to get a starting 11 out there each week. That's getting more and more difficult."
Hinckley have already failed to field a side once this season when they pulled out of their league fixture against Bishop's Stortford last month as injuries and suspensions left them with only eight registered players, two of them goalkeepers, plus Heggs himself.
He may have played for Swansea and West Brom during his playing days but, at 42, and with more than two decades in the game, he is clearly no longer in his prime.
Heggs, however, refuses to fault the efforts of his players during this difficult period.
"They have been terrific through it all, they have tried their hardest," he said.
"I've got 17 and 18 year olds playing who should be playing in the under-19s and I'm asking them to play in a very tough league.
"I don't find it hard to motivate them."
Court Order Dismissed
Hinckley United have escaped a winding-up order. In London's High Court yesterday, the order from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over an undisclosed debt was before the court. It was formally dismissed on the recommendation of HMRC. The most likely explanation is the debt had been paid or the club had come to an arrangement with HMRC.
Had the club been wound up, it would have had its assets sold to pay off the debt, effectively making it bankrupt.
No further details were given and no-one from the club was available for comment.
Non-league football: Vital for Hinckley United to operate within their means
Hinckley United may be 11 points adrift of their nearest rivals in Blue Square Bet Conference North, but manager Carl Heggs refuses to give up on the season.
“It’s never too far gone until it’s there to see that you can’t stay up,” he said.
“But if the transfer embargo is lifted, what, realistically, are the board looking at?
“Are they looking to throw a lot of money at it right now to give themselves an opportunity to stay in the league, which would be very difficult?
“Or are they looking just to get to the end of the season, take what’s probably going to happen, be relegated, and then start again next year?
“I think what’s best for the club right now is getting to a stage where they can run, financially, within their means – whether that’s in the Conference North or the Southern Premier League – but at the same time being able to challenge and compete at that level.
“Whether it’s this year, or next year, that is where the football club needs to be. If they can get to that stage, Hinckley will be a cracking club for me to be a manager at.
“I must give credit to the board. They have inherited a football club with a lot of debt and they are trying their hardest to pay it off but it’s not going as well as it should be on the playing side of things.”
Heggs is ultimately very
honest when it comes to discussing his future at the Greene King Stadium.
“Hinckley is a football club that I’m really fond of,” he said. “I just want them to sort out their financial problems so I can do the job with the tools necessary to make the club a success again. If that takes one year, two years, five years, it doesn’t matter how long it takes, I would like to be a part of that.
“But if it looks like what I’m trying to do is unachievable at the football club, then I have to sit down and look at where I need to go next. But it is hard to put a timescale on it.
“It’s definitely achievable, but whether it’s possible, we’ll have to wait and see.”