Bill Robertson is a "top bloke" and the Hawke's Bay United franchise and its board have kept a rapport with the player/coach despite his shock omission from the 2018-19 squad, according to board deputy chairman Andrew Huxford.
"We're having open dialogue with Bill, even still to today, and I think the way that Bill has handled himself through his non-selection is extremely professional," says Huxford after the Thirsty Whale-sponsored Bay United team confirmed this week they weren't signing Robertson.
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The 42-year-old former Blues skipper, who is the owner of Hawke's Bay Indoor Sports, is responding to Rovers assistant coach Stu James who this week questioned Bay United's selection policy after learning of Robertson's exclusion.
Speaking on behalf of the Napier club, James says it's frustrating having secured pedigree overseas players only to find at the end of their campaign they aren't going to make the cull of the Central Football franchise-funded summer team, despite mentoring Thirsty Whale Napier City Rovers to their third Ultra Football Central League this month.
He went on to say it was disappointing outcome for Robertson who had given up a lucrative stint with Team Wellington to return to the Bay franchise side and was on track to go on to assume the mantle of head coach here.
The 33-year-old centreback has expressed his disappointment but is "moving on".
England-born Robertson, who Bay United helped secure his New Zealand citizenship last year, has won two premiership crowns as captain/assistant coach with the capital city franchise, Team Wellington.
Huxford says Robertson has shown a "massive amount of integrity" amid "massive frustration".
"Bill's obviously made it clear he's a little bit confused as to why he hasn't been selected."
Huxford says it was put to Robertson that if he were the coach he also wouldn't want interference with his decisions which he respects.
"However, he does want to understand more, which is fair enough when you're not selected in a team.
"This sort of stuff happens daily at international and national level so, unfortunately, things sometimes don't fall in the player's way when the coach has a different plan in mind."
Franchise general manager operations Shane McKenzie echoes similar sentiments and reiterates the ball is in Angell's court.
"Napier City Rovers fans and other club supporters may be disappointed that Bill's not in but, at the end of the day, our head coach selects the squad for the season," says McKenzie.
Bay United ended their season with a 3-1 loss to Southern United at Bluewater Stadium, Park Island, in March. The Robertson-captained side didn't win a home game to finish eighth and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in six years.
However, Robertson picked up the player-of-the-year award and was voted the eighth MVP in the premiership from opposition coaches.
McKenzie says Angell's made some "big calls" around last season's results on who he wants in his equation this summer and it is nothing more than professionalism.
Franchise board chairwoman Paula Walker says they had offered Robertson a role of developing youth in the area some time ago after separate discussions with him around those positions.
"I believe we've continued to support him through that process," says Walker.
"Our board doesn't get into the reasons behind it. We support our head coach in his recruitment but we've obviously had discussions around it but the decision making sits with the head coach," she says.
Angell will be available for comments once the franchise has appointed his assistant coaches.
The franchise is mulling over 22 players in a bid to whittle it down to their squad for the season.
"Of those 22 players, 13 will be classed as locals," says McKenzie.
The Rovers may potentially end up with seven players from the title-winning team.
"Four of them have been offered agreements, one has yet to meet us and another two are going to trials," says McKenzie.
A Bay player also is returning home from university and the franchise hopes to sign another two from the demoted Central League campaigners Building King Havelock North Wanderers as well as two Computer Care Hawke's Bay Pacific Premiership players.
"Of the 22 players, 75 per cent of them have played for Hawke's Bay United before or have played locally," he said.
McKenzie says they have offered contracts to three Wairarapa United players.
Angell has been looking at a couple of imports from overseas.
Silky winger Wesley Cain, who came last summer as a Bay United player before joining the Blues' ranks, has returned home but McKenzie says he had spoken to the Canadian import a week after the Central League campaign and the player remains unsure of his intentions.
That a lion's share of the squad doesn't return at the end of a campaign is something the franchise will always battle because success opens doors to bigger and brighter careers for individuals in A-League, overseas contracts or overseas scholarships.
With the trials still staged in the Bay, Walkers says Angell has the advantage of continuing his scouting process that began in winter across the federation to harness that homegrown talent.
Huxford, responding to James' assertion that "Hawke's Bay United are in debt to Central Football by over $100,000", says it's not a secret and the franchise's financial position is open to public scrutiny.
"It's nothing new or new news because it's been available through AGM papers and Central Football papers," he says.
James is of the view if Central Football pours money into Bay United then their squad must comprise predominantly players from their catchment area first.
Huxford says Central Football, the amateur governing body of the code, supports every club in its catchment area, including the Rovers.
He says Central Football know the Blues have won the winter league and it's making sure that Bay United stays there as a pathway for players.
Walker stresses Central Football doesn't fund the franchise in the way some people think it does.
"We are set entities that share the goal of a shared entity," she says. "They have invested in us in the past but it is not an ongoing ...
"The amount of money that is being insinuated by Napier City Rovers is extremely misleading.".
Walker says the franchise has a regular repayment schedule with Central Football which the board has agreed to and has been working for some time which is open to scrutiny in its financial reports to all our member clubs.
She isn't able to produce a figure from the top of her head on what the franchise owes Central Football but emphasises she isn't trying to be evasive.
McKenzie is hoping the faithful will continue to support Bay United.
"I'm going into my third season and there are people like Paula Walker who have been working tirelessly to ensure that things happen not just now but for future generations for the Black and Whites who represent the whole [catchment] region."
Walker says the board reflects a dedicated winter league club representation to ensure maximum input.
Says Huxford: "I would like to thank some of the local clubs that have come forward to us [on Thursday] to thank us and shown us support for what we're trying to achieve after the article was published."