EASTLEIGH boss Richard Hill says Oxford United only have themselves to blame for losing iconic marksman James Constable to his newly-crowned Skrill Conference South champions.
The Spitfires set the non-League world buzzing last week when they followed Constable’s capture with that of his ex-Oxford strike partner Jack Midson, released by AFC Wimbledon, as they prepare to take the Conference Premier by storm.
Judging by some of the comments posted at the Oxford end, Constable’s departure – just one goal short of equalling the Us all-time scoring record – has not gone down well with stunned supporters of the League Two outfit.
But Hill, who is himself Oxford based, says disgruntled Us fans should be asking questions of their own club rather than blaming Eastleigh for taking their cult hero away.
“Some of the comments I’ve seen on the fans’ forums have got out of control,” said Hill.
“Don’t blame Eastleigh for signing James Constable, blame your own football club who did¬ n’t offer him the terms of con¬ tract he deserved.”
Ironically it was Eastleigh’s owner/chairman Stewart Donald and his company Bridle Insurance who, as Oxford United sponsors, paid the £69,000 fee that secured Constable’s permanent move to the Kassam Stadium in the first place.
Now Donald has come up trumps for the 29-year-old once again, offering him the security of a two-year deal as opposed to a new one-year contract on reduced terms at Oxford.
“Stewart and Eastleigh FC have been getting a bit of flak, but it’s not our fault,” Hill stressed.
“We moved in because we found a player who wasn’t happy with the length of contract he’d been offered and it had become obvious that Oxford weren’t working very hard to keep him. All we did was monitor the situation and do our job.
“If a player is out of contract you are free to speak to him.
“For James, the pull of Oxford was greater than the pull of Eastleigh because he wanted to break the goal-scoring record.
But, more than that, he wanted to secure a future for himself and his family like any of us would.”
Hill added: “Don’t forget that when James left Shrewsbury to join Oxford, they were a Conference Premier club, so it’s no different.
“He hasn’t stepped down a division through lack of ambition, he’s stepped down because of ambition. And I must say that there have also been some kind words from the Oxford end from people who understand that sometimes you have to take an opportunity when it comes along.”
Echoing Hill’s sentiments Constable said: “I met Richard and Stew and listened to their plans for the ground and players they were hoping to bring in.
“I spent a couple of evenings looking at the players already there at Eastleigh, wondering whether I’d missed something and it was a squad that had just won promotion from the Conference Premier!
“Add the players in that Richard wants to sign and it excites me. It’s going to be great teaming up with Jack Midson again.”