Mark Thomas says he has been left devastated after being forced to resign from his job as manager of Eversley & California following the decision to demote the club back to division one.

The former Bagshot chief and Sandhurst Town assistant was left reeling after his newly-promoted side were denied their promotion to the Combined Counties League Premier Division just three weeks before the start of the season following a row over planning consent for their new floodlights.

The decision left Thomas bearing the brunt of a mass player exodus with just five players turning up for pre-season training on Thursday night and more expected to follow the likes of striker Brad Cann and goalkeeper Ashley West out of the exit door this week.

Eversley’s dream of playing Step 5 football for the first time in their history came crashing down early last week when it was revealed that the new floodlights at Fox Lane could only be in use from October 15 to April 1.

Despite frantic negotiations from the new committee at the club, Hart District Council insisted the condition could not be wavered in time for the floodlights to take effect, leaving league chiefs with no option but to demote Eversley and run the premier division as a 21-club league.

Thomas, however, believes more could’ve been done to restructure the CCL fixture list to allow Eversley to carry on playing in the premier division – or at least to solve the problem by reinstating rivals Ash United to plug the gap.

“To work so hard to fulfil your dream of playing at the highest level in the club’s history, and then to be denied at the last’s devastating.

“Now, everyone has gone. News circulated pretty fast and then when only five players turned up for training my hands were completely tied. I spoke to a few friends and they agreed that my position had been left untenable and the club understand that.

“For me, though, I believe the league could have done more to restructure the fixture and help us catch up midweek home fixtures from October 15. Then, not to reinstate a club like Ash in our place...well, it doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t solve the problem.”

A league statement confirmed: “The planning consent for the floodlights at Eversley & California FC currently only allow use from October 15 to April 1.

“This was only recently realised by the club but it means that the club has now been placed in Division One for the forthcoming season, rather than the Premier Division. 

“Active steps are being taken by the club to have the planning approval changed in time for the following season.”