By Tim Ashton and James Barrett
Former Carshalton Athletic striker Paul Vines says he fears the Robins will be relegated in the aftermath of a player cull that has left the onus on youth.
Vines, along with Tom Bird and David Ray, as well as summer signings Wayne Gray, Ashley Carew and Jack Clark, had their contracts cancelled last week after the club restructured how the player budget would be funded.
The club’s board of directors released a statement saying: “The external funding for the first team budget will be phased out over the next three months at which point it will be set by the board of directors at a level the club as a business can sustain by itself.
“To meet this target there will be a significant cut to the first team budget which will result in some players leaving the club.”
Speaking after the Robins’ 2-0 Ryman League Premier Divsion defeat to Bognor Regis, Vines said: “We had a lot of youngsters in the team against Bognor and people need to understand there is a vast difference between playing at junior level football and senior level.
“It’s a huge ask of the players, I am not sure how it is going to turn out. I fear for the worst.
“It is going to be a long old season and after wholesale changes it’s a team that should have been challenging for the title. Now it’s been stripped right back and you’re looking at a fledgling team.
“The Bognor result put the team joint bottom, it’s going to be a tall order to avoid relegation. I really fear for the club.”
Vines, who made 64 appearances for the Robins scoring 30 goals, was told he had no choice when it came to leaving the club. He said: “The budget has been adjusted and that meant a selected number of players had to be moved on.
“It was not through choice, I think we all wanted to stay and make amends for a slow start to the season. But that opportunity was taken our of our hands.”
The 29-year-old, who has joined Cray Wanderers, added: “It’s disappointing but it’s football.”
Ian Hazel, who has handed the caretaker manager role over to Tommy Williams, said: “There’s a bit of uncertainty in the dressing room, no one knows what’s happening and no one knows what is going to happen. But I cannot fault the players’ effort and attitude against Bognor and at this moment in time that’s all we can ask for.
“The fans realise how difficult it has been here and they were very good tonight, it is great support. The boys needed that support and they were excellent throughout.”
Owner Paul Dipre said: “I heard that the support from the Robins Choir was superb in the second half, which is great news, I hope they can keep it going because it makes a big difference to team spirit.”
On his move to Cray, Vines said: "A few clubs did get in touch but, in the end, it boiled down to Cray and one other side. I thought I was going to go to Kingstonian but that just never happened.
"The Wands are one of my local clubs, plus my brother also plays for there, so in the end both those things helped sway my decision."
Vines has played alongside his brother Joe, a centre back who is currently in his second spell with Wanderers, before.
He said: "We played together at Tooting & Mitcham in the past, so it has come full circle.
“We can be quite critical of each other, but we are also aware of the positives our relationship can foster, so he was keen for me to join.
"We enjoyed some great times at Tooting, including an FA Cup first round proper fixture, so hopefully we’ll be able to make some more happy memories at Cray.”