Tuesday 28th June 2005

Gurney has high hopes for Smith



With the deal to take James Smith from Welling United to Nationwide Conference full-time outfit, Gravesend & Northfleet now finalised, Nigel Gurney, who was assistant manager at Park View Road last season, and is now scouting for the Fleet, spoke to www.wellingonline.co.uk about his high hopes for the player.

Smith started his career as an apprentice at Cambridge United before moving to Welling United, where he made an immediate impact.

"I first saw James at Cambridge during his time with the reserves," said Gurney.

"We invited him to training, and though I personally couldn't make a judgement on his ability, Liam (Daish) and Paul (Parker) saw something in him.

"His first truly great performance I believe, came at home to Hornchurch, when we all realised we had a special player in James."

Gurney explained how Daish became a huge fan of Smith after he showed his dedication and maturity week in week out.

"When James would stay on for extra training Liam was impressed by this," he said.

"Being only 18 he showed real dedication.

"On the pitch he again showed us his ability and maturity, with his strength and leadership skills at such a young age.

"Though his two red cards last season showed his inexperience, he will, however, learn from his mistakes and become a better player because of it."

Gurney also explained Smith became a huge fan of Daish, and how it was one of the deciding factors in his move to join the Irishman at Stonebridge Road.

"James is a great fan of Liam and this was one of the main influences on his decision to move," he said.

"Liam always played a certain way - as hard as nails - and James respected that approach and looked up to Liam."

However, it was clear in the interview that although Daish and Smith have a mutual respect for each other, Smith will have to fight for his place in the Nationwide Conference side at Stonebridge Road.

Gurney added: "As James will already know his place in the starting eleven won't be guaranteed and he will certainly have to fight to get his name in the starting line up."

Gurney concluded his views on the signing of Smith, adding: "The deal for James has been on and off for the past couple of weeks and I can understand why Welling wanted such a high feel for James and were reluctant to sell - we are just pleased to have secured him."

And Gurney went on explaining the reasons behind the move for Danny Slatter.

He said: "The signing of Danny was mainly influenced by the fact that Gravesend are now full time and this is something Danny is desparate to get back to.

"I have followed Danny throughout his career and ever since he left Chelsea he has found it hard.

"When things went wrong for Danny following the impact on the ITV Digital downfall on the football league he found it hard being away from full-time football.

"Danny really enjoyed his time at Welling and still has many friends at the club."

Gurney reflected on his disappointing time at Park View Road last season.

"Ultimately the players under achieved last season," he admits

"We were disappointed as we felt they had let us down.

"We started the season on the wrong foot, although most of us did not expect too much against Charlton, losing 8-0 wasn't the greatest of starts.

"The season before we drew 1-1 with the Addicks and Curbishley even admitted that we embarrassed them!"

From that point onwards Gurney knew the management team would have a big job on their hands.

After some painfull and inconsistent performances it was a matter of time when former England international and Manchester United defender Paul Parker would move on.

Then came Daish's appointment as caretaker manager around the Christmas period.

"When Liam joined the performances from the side immediately improved," Gurney said.

"After such a great start Liam was gutted that he didn't get the job after he picked up 10 points from a possible 12!"

But Gurney has high hopes for former Gills star Adrian Pennock.

"Before I left Welling with Adrian in January I immediately knew his way of thinking and what signings he would make in the summer.

"Ade and Phil (Handford) are the people to get Welling back to the Conference.

"With the likes of Lewes and Weymouth spending a lot of money, its not going to be easy but they have the management team to do it and I wish them every success."