Sunday 15th August 2004

Lakin tells Erith & Belvedere fans – it’s good to talk!

BARRY LAKIN, manager of Southern League Division One East progressive club, Erith & Belvedere, has thrown the gauntlet down to the club's supporters to be more positive, writes Stephen McCartney.

The club boasts one of the best grounds and playing surfaces in the division - Park View Road in Welling - with their own bar facilities and a newly installed fitness and rehabilitation centre but Lakin and the club are trying to get more established in the local area, after many years in the doldrums.

The appointment of the thirty-year-old manager has given the club a breath of fresh air, both on and off the pitch.

The former Chelmsford City youth academy coach is in his first managerial job at first team level, and he said: "I just feel, it would be nice to get a few more fans through the turnstiles, and people to be a bit more positive when they talk about Erith & Belvedere." 

Lakin admitted he is more than happy to discuss team performances and selection to supporters inside the clubhouse after the game, rather than fans using cyberspace to voice their dissatisfaction about the team through a disguise on an internet message board.

He suggested: "I just like the fans to voice their opinions directly to me, the manager.

"It's so easy to sit back and be negative.  Let's all try and do things and be more positive. We should all be working together - because we all want to be successful." 

Lakin is looking up to the more established club's in the area, and sees Premiership neighbours Charlton Athletic as "being at the pinnacle" and wants his club to be of the same standard and same fan base as local sides Gravesend & Northfleet, Dartford, Maidstone United and Welling United.

He added: "I am quite happy to speak to fans in the bar -  it's not a massively supported club, but we all want a successful side.   There are reasons for team selection, so speak to me face to face rather than going on the internet.

"It's a great little set up at Erith & Belvedere, and they aren't getting the recognition they deserve. 

"The club has a good base - we've got five youth teams and a reserve team, which have just been promoted into the Go Travel Kent League Division One." 

With so many players representing the club at all levels this season, Lakin asks parents and youngsters to come through the turnstiles to support the first team during their Southern League Division One East campaign.

However, Lakin admitted his side "froze" in Saturday's opening league game at East Thurrock United, going down 5-1, but he is looking forward to his team opening their points account in their next two games, both at Park View Road, against Beaconsfield SYCOB on Tuesday night and against Barton Rovers next Saturday. 

Lakin admitted: "Yesterday was unfortunate, because we froze.

"We conceded the first three goals, which were through set-plays - a corner, a free kick and a penalty, which was harsh.

"Take nothing away from East Thurrock United, however, they deserved the win." 

The manager added: "I've learnt a lot more about my players through defeat rather than through victory - which is, we need to work a lot harder, and need to have more trust within the team."

Lakin, however, revealed details about twenty-two-year-old centre forward Akpo Sodje, and his proposed move to Coca Cola League One outfit Huddersfield Town.

The striker, brother of Terriers defender Efe, has been training with the West Yorkshire club during the summer.

Sodje, who had a trial with League Two club Macclesfield Town in September 2001, was in line to earn a three-month contract with the Glapharm Stadium outfit.

The move, however, has hit a stumbling block as Sodje's club - Erith & Belvedere - want a fee for the African hit-man.

Huddersfield are not prepared to match the valuation requested from the Kent club.

Jackson is ready to give the striker a chance to earn a career with the League One club and hopes the issue can be resolved.

"I am willing to give him a shot with a short-term, three-month deal, but his current club are demanding a compensation fee because he is only 22, but I am not willing to pay the amount they are asking," Jackson told the West Yorkshire club's official website.

"I would like to assess him over a longer period and I am just waiting to here back from Erith on how they want to progress."

However, Lakin dismissed these reports, and said: "Huddersfield are really interested in him.  We've put a price for Akpo, which we feel is very reasonable, and we are waiting for a reply."

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