May 4 2012 By Tim Street
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MARK Harper admits the battle begins now to stave off the vultures and keep his Hampton & Richmond side together.
Last-day wins for relegation rivals Maidenhead and Havant & Waterlooville on Saturday meant Hampton's own 2-0 win at Thurrock was purely academic as the Beavers' five-year stint in Blue Square South came to an end.
Manager Harper believes he has a squad capable of bouncing straight back from the Ryman League – so long as he can keep prying eyes away from his talented youngsters.
Ex Beavers boss Alan Devonshire, now in charge at Braintree Town, is one already rumoured to be lining up approaches for some of his former charges.
Harper said: “We have every chance of bouncing back. I know we've got a young side which eventually will be a success if we can keep it together.
“I've been aware all year of interest in our players, but we have shown loyalty to them by sticking with them and offering new contracts, and now we are hoping for some back.
“Being in the Ryman League will obviously effect which players we can sign too. I have no idea about bringing players in until I have that discussion with the chairman this week.
“As for my own position, the chairman has always said as long as he is here, then I will be here too, although he is just as disappointed as any of us.”