Truro City's Lee Hodges is 'happy to be playing football'
Truro City player-manager Lee Hodges is expecting his travelling squad to be down to "bare bones" for tonight's emotional Blue Square Bet South return at Staines Town – but he also admitted that he will "just be happy to be playing again" for City.
"I guess I will give myself a little pinch to make sure it's all real," the 39-year-old admitted on the eve of Truro's eagerly anticipated return to action, following two postponed games and a saga of off-field drama which nearly saw the Cornish non-League football club collapse.
With their existence in jeopardy, City, who have been in administration since August, avoided expulsion from the Football Conference last Friday, when Truro businessmen Pete Masters and Philip Perryman paid a £50,000 bond demanded by the league.
That gave Truro the chance to play on in Blue Square Bet South, the Conference's second tier, until the end of the season – starting at Wheatsheaf Park tonight.
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"A lot has gone on in the past few weeks – all of it off the field – and it will just be nice to get back on the field and playing football again," Hodges added.
"I'm sure I won't believe it until I'm lining up with the boys at Staines. We're likely to be down to 12 or 13 [players] because Stewart Yetton is injured and Dan Green is suspended but, by and large, the players have managed to stay reasonably fit with games for other teams.
"Not all have them have played recently, but I'm sure they will all be like me and just be happy to be playing for Truro again – when on many occasions in the past two weeks we've thought it was all going to be over."
Yetton, who hurt a knee playing for Plymouth Parkway in the Carlsberg South West Peninsula League last Friday, will be a big miss after claiming two superb goals in Truro's 2-1 home win over Bath City in their last match three weeks ago. Hodges' side have had subsequent matches at home to Dover Athletic and at Eastleigh postponed due to their off-the-field predicament.
Staines start the day eighth in the 22-team table while last-placed Truro have one point after their win over Bath, following a ten-point deduction for going into administration.
Hodges said: "There are a group of teams above us on 13 points. We have matches in hand on most of them but, without stating the obvious, we also have our work cut out – to say the very least."
Truro missed an initial noon deadline last Friday to come up with the bond payment, after one proposed takeover deal came to nothing, but they saved themselves before a revised 5pm deadline.
Yesterday, the Conference issued an official statement in an attempt to clarify what went on last Friday, when it was widely reported in online media that Truro had been expelled from the league.
The statement, which was signed by Conference board member Colin Peake, stated: "Truro City FC has rightly caused genuine concern to the board, but we are delighted that the major efforts undertaken by all parties to keep the club alive appear to offer long-term hope. So, despite reports to the contrary in some media outlets that the club had been expelled, that was never published by the Football Conference, albeit it is clear to all that the club was very close to such action being taken.
"Throughout protracted legal issues, which remain private and confidential for good reason, the Football Conference only sought one solution. That was the continuation of the club as a member of the competition, albeit the future of the club remained in doubt right up to the final timeline which the administrators, their legal team, and the club was given to work to.
"It is hoped that the 'last minute' investors will be successful in their efforts with the club, its staff, management and players and that they will be able to sustain and promote a club worthy of membership and be a credit to their community and football in Cornwall," the statement added.
Masters and Perryman went to an open meeting at Truro's Treyew Road stadium last night, when Masters told fans and players that he and Perryman would be funding the wages of club employees from this week – and that they wanted to buy the club as soon as possible.