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Managerial News Within The Premier Division

Rather than reporting all the comings and goings at the Pitching In Isthmian League Premier Division clubs just before the season starts and having an article which matches ‘War and Peace’ for the number of words! This pre-season there’ll be regular updates during the summer.

This first article concerns managerial news since the end of last season (not sure when that actually was, so all news from start of November included!). 

 

Cray Wanderers

After six seasons with ‘The Wands’, Manager Tony Russell and his Assistant Joe Vines surprisingly left the South London club. In the 2015/6 season, which was their first, they reached the North Division Play-offs and two seasons later they reached the Play-offs again, although this time in the South Division having been transferred.  Following another reorganisation, ‘The Wands’ became the first ever South-East Division Champions in the 2018/19 season (a title the club still technically holds!), whilst Tony won the South-East Division ‘Manager of the Year’ and returned to the Isthmian Premier after a five season absence where the club were on a 12 game unbeaten run in 2020 when the pandemic struck the world with such devastation and they were also well placed last season, albeit having only played seven games .

The club acted quickly to appoint a replacement and the man in charge next season will be Danny Kedwell in his first managerial position. Not only will he be Manager, but he has also registered as a player and will no doubt continue to be a thorn in the side of opposing defences having scored an incredible 249 career goals at differing levels. Danny’s last club was Hollands & Blair, but prior to that he was playing for Havant & Waterlooville and he has played for several Kent clubs, including Maidstone United and Herne Bay, where we first encountered him during our Kent League days, and where he scored 28 goals in 2004-05. He then moved on to Welling United where he scored 38 goals in two seasons before a year at Grays Athletic, prior to transferring to AFC Wimbledon in 2008 and over three seasons scoring 67 goals and helping ‘The Dons’ into the Conference and in 2011 he scored the winning penalty in the Conference Play-off final against Luton Town to earn promotion to the Football League.  This alerted his home-town club Gillingham to sign him before the start of the 2011/12 season and he spent four seasons with ‘The Gills’ scoring 40 goals in 119 appearances. He then went on to Ebbsfleet United in January 2015 and served ‘The Fleet’ well with four seasons in the National League before joining Havant & Waterlooville.

Kedwell, who holds a UEFA ‘A’ Coaching Licence, has appointed midfielder/winger Andy Drury as his Assistant and he too will continue to play. Andy has a wealth of experience in both the Football League and non-league football and began his career with his home-town club Sittingbourne in 2001, remaining there for two years before signing for then Gravesend & Northfleet (now Ebbsfleet United) for three seasons. After a spell at Lewes, he moved on to Stevenage Borough and helped the club win the Conference Premier and FA Trophy in 2008/09. He had a short spell at Luton Town when they were in the Conference between 2010/11 and was then signed by Championship club Ipswich Town in January 2011 where he made 64 appearances in two seasons scoring twice, before moving on to Crawley Town and returning to Luton Town, now in the Football League, in the summer of 2014. Drury returned to the non-league game with Conference side Eastleigh in 2015-16 and then on to Ebbsfleet United where he was a team-mate of Danny Kedwell and he later joined him at Havant & Waterlooville for a spell prior to re-joining Sittingbourne in 2020.  

They have already made several new signings as they look to continue the club’s great run over the past few seasons, details of which appear in the next article.  

 

Hornchurch

Unsurprisingly, Mark Stimson has signed a two-year contract at ‘The Stadium’. Incredibly since joining, ‘The Urchins’ in November 2018 he hasn't yet had an uninterrupted season in charge, but his side were 3rd when the 2019/20 season came to a premature end, and 9th when last season was curtailed and of course he steered the club to FA Trophy Final when they overcame National League North Hereford United last Saturday. He was previously the manager at Thurrock and Waltham Abbey amongst others, and of course steered Grays Athletic to a promotion and two FA Trophy triumphs earlier in his career, as well as also winning the competition with Stevenage Borough.

Having signed his new contract, Stimson said: ‘I’m delighted to accept it and look forward to trying to build on what we’ve already started. We want to build on the success of this season. ‘If it wasn’t for the situation over the last two seasons, who knows where we might have been now, but we’ve dealt with it in the best possible way and that is being in this great competition. ‘We’re looking forward to a great day out at Wembley and if you would have said that when I took over - that you’d be playing in an FA Trophy Final - everyone would have laughed, so that shows you how far we’ve come in this short space of time that has been very interrupted due to Covid.’

 

Kingstonian

Former Bognor Regis Town player and Manager Jamie Howell has become a coach with ‘The Ks’. Howell, who was in charge of ‘The Rocks’ during their run to the FA Trophy Semi-Finals a few seasons ago and their promotion to the National League in 2016-17, before moving on to manage Eastbourne Borough.

 

Leatherhead

The Tanners’ have confirmed that their Manager Nikki Bull and his Assistant Martin McCarthy have agreed to remain with the club for the forthcoming season. The duo arrived at the club in May 2018 and steered them to 8th in the Premier Division in their first season. Since then we haven't managed to finish a season, but they were 9th with games in hand over the sides above them when 2019/20 came to a halt, and 12th, but having played only nine games, when last season went the same way.

 

Lewes

Hugo Langton has left Lewes having been with the club for thirteen months, encompassing two enormously interrupted campaigns. Originally, he came in only to work until the end of the 2019/20 season but remained longer to see the club through the pandemic.

With Langton leaving The Dripping Pan, it didn’t take long for Tony Russell and Joe Vines to take up new positions as Manager and Assistant Manager respectively at Lewes. They’ve brought in several their former charges at Cray Wanderers, including former Invicta striker Joe Taylor and they’ll be expected to join their Sussex neighbours Worthing, Bognor Regis Town and Horsham in mounting a challenge for honours next season.

Margate

Midfielder Reece Prestedge, who recently announced that he had pulled on his boots for the last time, has agreed to stay with the club and become a Coach at Hartsdown Park having previously worked with Manager, Jay Saunders, at Maidstone United. Apart from Margate and Maidstone United, Reece has also played for Welling United, Bromley, East Thurrock United, Cheshunt and Bishop's Stortford.

Away from the pitch, Margate have also announced that Terry Painter has stood down from his role after three years in the Chair. He’ll be replaced by Vice Chair Ricky Owen, with Director Chris Chambers becoming Vice Chair.

 

Wingate & Finchley

Wingate & Finchley recently announced the departure of Manager Spencer Knight having been appointed in late September 2019. ‘The Blues’ won five fixtures under his management before the 2019/20 season came to a premature halt, and they were in sixteenth place last season when it came to a halt, having won three and drawn one of their eight matches. Looking at the comments from their Chairman Aron Sharpe it would look more like a difference of opinion rather than results that caused him to depart, as he said: ‘The decision has been made as the club in recent seasons has moved away from the very reason why I am involved in football at this level. It was felt by myself and within the club that our DNA was always based on development and a pathway for youngsters and providing opportunities for our players to develop as coaches and helping backroom medical staff and volunteers gain experience, for example Anthony Limbrick, Michael Stone, Steve Lilley just to name a few. ‘It is always a struggle at this level to find the balance between investing in the first team while focusing on development, but the Pandemic has allowed the Club to take stock and while the decision was a difficult one, it is something we felt was in the best interests of the Club in line with our ethos and provides exciting opportunities to rebuild. ‘I have a lot of respect for Spencer. He was the only person interviewed when he was hired, and I have no doubt he will be a success in his next role. The Club wishes Spencer every success in his future pathway’.

Knight has been replaced by Marc Weatherstone who became Wingate & Finchley's record appearance holder when he pulled on the shirt for the 452nd time in late 2018, and it came as an enormous surprise when he left the club for Enfield Town, but now he's now returned to the Maurice Rebak Stadium. Weatherstone, who as well as his time with ‘The Blues’ played a big part in Dulwich Hamlet's promotion season of 2017/18, had played 64 games for ‘The Towners’ since moving to Donkey Lane.

He is joined by a new Director of Football, former team-mate Ahmet Rifat, who was of course the main antagonist in our controversial 2-2 draw with ‘The Blues’ a couple of seasons’ ago. Rifat has been a good servant for ‘The Blues’ and he replaced Weatherstone as the club's record appearance holder when he made his 460th appearance in the Middlesex Senior Cup last season.

Worthing

Another contract extension that came as no surprise was for Adam Hinshelwood who has signed a new three-year contract to remain as Manager at Woodside Road which continues his second spell as Manager at the club. In the first he brought through many of the young players who were part of their South Division promotion side, and in the second he began by steering them through a period of adversity, their ground was closed due to pitch issues and they were second bottom upon his arrival. He has since taken them from strength to strength. They were top of the table when last season crashed to a halt and were once again top of the pile when the current campaign was halted.

The next article (coming out next weekend) will show news of the Premier Division clubs’ signings so far.

Thanks to Neil Pilcher for this article.