Saturday 08th May 2004

Jenkins ponders his future at Cray Wanderers

Successful manager could be on his way if his club are denied promotion by FA

AMBITIOUS and successful Cray Wanderers manager Ian Jenkins has hinted he may leave the club to manage at a higher level if his side are denied promotion from the Go Travel Kent League Premier Division this week, writes Stephen McCartney.

Jenkins, in his twelve season at the club as player then manager, has guided the club to two successive Kent League titles and feels he, and his assistant, Joe Francis, both need to be "tested at a higher level."

Jenkins' CV to perspective clubs looks very impressive.  Since Francis, a talented free flowing midfielder, who graced many clubs including Welling United, Bromley, Enfield and Hayes, has come to the club, the team have performed and a string of trophies have filled the trophy cabinet.

The successful run started last season when they won the Kent League Cup, beating VCD Athletic 2-0 at Folkestone Invicta's Cheriton Road ground, and they also reached the final of the Kent Senior Trophy, but lost to Maidstone United.   The Kent League title was won on the final day of the season, beating plucky Lordswood with two late goals from David Gray and Richard Dimmock.

This season they were again on course to land the treble.  They beat Hythe Town 1-0 to lift the Kent Senior Trophy, after missing out in the previous two finals.  A 3-1 win over Hythe Town at Hayes Lane saw Jenkins' side retain the Kent League championship and were confident of completing the double - but Thamesmead Town had other ideas.

A Marc Merridan strike in the 32nd minute from close range gave Thamesmead Town the Kent League Cup for the first time in their short 35-year history.

But the future of Jenkins and Francis and many of their players all depends on the Football Association's decision whether to promote Cray from the Kent League.

However, early indications, although mixed, on next season's league set up, could reprieve Erith & Belvedere, who finished in the relegation places in the Dr Martens League Eastern Division, and deny Cray Wanderers a place in the new look league.

But the Football Association will reveal next season's line-ups in the next few days.  If Cray Wanderers aren't involved, then Jenkins, Francis and most of their players will consider their futures at Hayes Lane, they are tenants of Ryman League outfit Bromley, and may want to move on and play for clubs at a higher level.

Jenkins, speaking after they lost their grasp on the Kent League Cup, losing 1-0 to Thamesmead Town, revealed: "We've applied to go up and we've done things the right way.  It's just a lottery at the moment.  If we don't go up, I think we will lose some players and might even lose their manager!"

He added: "I am not prepared to sit around the Kent League.  I've won the league twice, and I am ambitious like most people,  Myself and Joe (Francis) want to go up higher and get tested at a higher level.  I don't want to be sitting around the Kent League to be honest.  I've been in it for 14-15 years and I've had enough of it!"

"If we don't go up with this club, I am not prepared to stay here, and I've told the chairman that." the Sidcup based boss insisted.

Jenkins did praise Thamesmead Town for their display to take the Kent League Cup away from his side at a wet Westbourne Stadium in Folkestone on Saturday.

When asked if Thamesmead were the better side on the day, Jenkins replied,: "Yes, I suppose you can say that, because they won 1-0.  I thought it was a close game and we had our chances."

However, the Cray Wanderers camp were left fuming with referee Gary Johnson with a couple of decisions that went against their side throughout the game.

Jenkins fumed: "We had a perfectly good goal ruled out for an advantage given after the goal went in, which was rather sad, but I don't want to say too much about the referee."

Jenkins praised Thamesmead for their triumph.  He added: "But the game was good, and fair play to Thamesmead.  They've had a great season as well and to finish runners-up behind us, you have got to be a good side.

"Fair play to them - I like Paul Blade (Thamesmead manager) he has a good bunch of lads and I get on well with him.  If anyone is going to win it, I'm glad they did.

"Thamesmead were worthy winners, they battled hard and on the day they got the goal, the break.  The goal summed up what we lacked today - that extra ten yards to make the effort to clear the ball or to make the tackle.  They got their first and fair play to them."

Cray have a chance to get the cup final disappointment out of their system, when they face Maidstone United, in the final Kent League game of the season,  at Hayes Lane on Monday evening.

The Stones will be chasing the double over the champions, but Jenkins admitted the game isn't important to him, as they have already been crowned champions.

He added: "It would be nice to bounce back and get a result  - but it doesn't matter.  We've got what we wanted, which was the league title.  To be fair to Maidstone, they will want to come down and beat us to do the double over us, and say they had beaten the champions twice."


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