Matthew Bates believes Hartlepool United might still be alive today as a Football League club had he and his comrades been given the chance earlier.
Bates was asked to take temporary charge with Billy Paynter, Stuart Parnaby and Ian Gallagher after then-chairman Gary Coxall sacked Dave Jones following the 2-0 defeat by Barnet on April 22.
It only gave the gang of four just two matches to save Pools from the drop to the National League and despite a great effort, they just missed out.
“I think it would have been different, to be honest.
“We said that, the players said that to us, we had two games, we did our best, but it probably wasn’t quite long enough.
“We don’t know, we were told to do it for two games to do it.
“I’ve been humbled by the players and how they have reacted to us and I’ve enjoyed it.
“I don’t know what happens next.”
It was a bold move by Coxall to place four men with not one game of management experience between them.
They lost their opener 1-0 a Cheltenham, where the side gave a spirited display in the relegation six-pointer.
And the side fought back from a goal down to beat title contenders Doncaster 2-1 thanks to a magnificent double from teen striker Devante Rodney.
Bates said he and his group have enjoyed the challenge, despite the club’s fall from the Football League after 96 years.
“It’s been brilliant, working with Billy, Parns and Buster,” explained the 30-year-old.
“When the lads were in the tunnel ready to go out on Saturday, we, as a group, had a little time together to thank each other.
“The reaction of the players after the game said a lot, they thanked us for what we have done and we thanked them for what they had given us.
“They have been brilliant, we could not have asked of more from them.”
Bates admits the way Pools took on and beat a side of Doncaster’s calibre left a bittersweet taste.
There was encouragement of the way the team performed but disappointment there was no happy ending.
“If you look at the performance, yes, that gives us something,” said the 30-year-old. “But tomorrow, next week it’s forgotten about, we have been relegated.
“For the players, myself, coaches it sends us into next year with hopefully a plan to get us back to where the club belongs.
“But for the fans, it is probably forgotten.”
When Rodney had equalised on 74 minutes, Pools were heading out the league given Newport and Notts County were also level at 1-1.
But the 18-year-old fired in an 83rd-minute winner to put Pools above the Welsh side and give the packed home crowd hope, only for Mark O’Brien to score an 8th-th minute winner for Newport.
“How it happened does make it harder,” said former Middlesbrough defender Bates.
“All we could have done was what we did and win.
“I would be a hell of a lot more disappointed if we hadn’t done our bit.”