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TWO OF THE VERY BEST - TRULY THE END OF AN ERA AS CHAPPELL IS SET TO FOLLOW LONG-TIME TEAM-MATE FRIEND OUT OF INVICTA

Don’t they always say that all good things have to come to an end? And Folkestone Invicta boss Neil Cugley admits that it genuinely is the end of an era as he faces up to the loss of both members of one of the most admired centre back pairings in non-league football.

Following the shock departure of club captain Liam Friend to free-spending Isthmian Premier rivals at Kent neighbours Margate only a matter of a week or so ago, Cugley has confirmed that the equally excellent Frankie Chappell is leaving the Fullicks Stadium.

Heart

It’s going to need more than statistics to explain just how much this pair have done for Invicta in the ten years they have played together at the heart of first a back five, then for so long a three and occasionally more recently a three man defensive barrier to all opposing forwards daring to set foot on the Cheriton Road playing area.

But it has to be said that between them Friend, 29 a couple of months ago, and Chappell – who is some seven months younger have played more than 1,000 senior games for Folkestone with probably less than a couple of dozen of those matches playing alongside anyone else.

Manager Cugley said: “They’ve both been tremendous servants to this football club and we’ve achieved so much during the time they’ve been here.

“I was bitterly disappointed to lose Friendy (right) in the way that we did, but that’s football I guess. I’ve been in the game long enough to realise that.

“But Frank had told me about a month ago that he was finding travelling up here from Eastbourne three times a week was getting too much for him. It’s not the easiest of roads and by the time he’d paid for all that petrol he cannot have been making too much out of what we’ve been paying him.

“We were lucky that when he got the job teaching down there a couple of years back we were still able to persuade him to stay at the club. He’s a family man too, now, of course and it often took him two hours each way which not many would have wanted to do on top of a day’s work.”

"He needs an operation to clean his knee and his liagements out, but that's hopefully just routine and shouldn't take too long.

“He’s kept me informed of the situation and done everything just as it should have been. He’s talking to a couple of clubs closer to his home in Sussex – Lewes is looking a real possibility. It’s a good club and a nice ground there, and wherever he goes he goes with our thanks for everything he’s done here and our very best wishes for the future.

‘Chapz’ and ‘Friendy’ had a terrific understanding with the pinnacle of theirs and Invicta’s success came only just over a year ago when the club won the Ryman Division One South Championship by a massive 24 points and had the title in the bag with five games still left to play in what proved a truly record-breaking season.

Regular

Liam Friend became a first team regular at Invicta after stepping up from the reserves in season 2007-8 with Chappell, then 18, first coming to the club at about the same time from Gillingham along with fellow ex-Gills youngster Charlie Glyde.

 Following Invicta’s relegation at the end of that campaign, Chappell had a year at Welling United, but returned to the then Buzzlines Stadium some 12 months later, and the rest, as they say, was history.

He and Friend were key figures in a brilliant five-man defence that also included the former youth team trio of Josh Vincent, Liam Dickson and Josh Burchell as Folkestone won promotion via the play-offs at the end of the 2009/10 season with a ridiculously meagre 23 goals conceded in 42 league games.

Since that time, and despite all the ups and downs in the club’s fortunes both on and off the field, Invicta have won a great deal more games than they’ve lost in front of their home fans.

Pride

And, defensively, in a back four that still included the long-serving Josh Vincent but with Nat Blanks replacing Burchell who moved to Hythe, there was a justifiable pride of which the captain frequently spoke, of how much they’d achieved together.

One of Chappell’s great assets has always been his strength in both 18-yard boxes and in at total of 501 games he was scored an excellent 56 goals, many of them vital to the result of a game.

His parents Graham and Pauline, who live in south London where Frank grew up, must have watched more than 400 of those games, several times cutting holidays short to prevent missing a match or two.

“They’re both also popular figures around the club, rarely missing a game home or away in all that time” said club secretary Richard Murrill recently as he reported that their son had been named Supporters Player of the Year for the second time in the season just ended when he and long-time team-mate Friend’s performances were yet again crucial as Folkestone escaped relegation from the Premier Division by winning their last two games.

Frank, who played in every one of Invicta’s 56 competitive games last season, is only the second player ever to win the FIFC Supporters Player of the Year award twice – behind only goalscoring legend Jimmy Dryden who was a triple time winner in the first decade of the new Millennium.

Friend’s leadership has been a major factor in the contribution that he has made to Invicta as captain for the last three seasons.

 

Rely

Manager Cugley said: “Liam did a great job for me as captain. If I needed anything communicated to the rest of the team about pick-up times or training, I could always rely on him getting the message out.

“He was players’ player a couple of times, think, and I find it surprising that he never won the supporters trophy. If that’d had been me, and as a championship winning captain I might perhaps have felt that I wasn’t appreciated enough.”

Just back from a few days away on the club’s end-of-season trip to Magaluf, he added: “I’ve had some time now to get over the shock that they’ll both be gone. They’ve been one of the best defensive partnerships at our level for a long, long time.

“It had looked more than likely that Frank would be going, and I was looking forward to seeing how well Friendy and Callum (Davies) settled into a new partnership together.

“That’s football, but I’ve got my head round the situation and I’m off to talk to three new players  - one tomorrow morning, one in the afternoon and another at the weekend.”