Canterbury City part company with manager Ben Smith following title race integrity newspaper quote

Monday 29th April 2019

CANTERBURY CITY manager Ben Smith has been harshly sacked by his club following a quote published in his local newspaper.

Cray Valley (Paper Mills) rose to the summit for the first time in an exciting Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division title race following a 5-0 home win over basement side Croydon on Easter Monday – after leaders Corinthian slipped up by losing 2-0 at third-placed Fisher.

Kevin Watson’s side needed a win over Canterbury City to claim the title and promotion in to the Isthmian League for the first time and they scored two goals in the 76th and 86th minutes from strikers Francis Babalola and Gavin Tomlin to get over the line a point clear of Corinthian.

Corinthian thrashed Bearsted 5-0 on the final day of the season and Cray Valley’s attacking quality – they have scored 108 goals in 38 league games – ensured captain Andy Walker celebrated winning his first league title success at the age of 37.

Smith fielded a strong side to face the Millers with Jack Delo, Ryan Cooper, Michael Turner, Phil Starkey, Gary Sayer, Dan Lawrence, Dean Grant, Mobolaji Dawodu and Renford Tenyue, who all have extensive Isthmian League experience, starting in the game.

Cray Valley beat Canterbury City 2-1 on aggregate in The Buildbase FA Vase Semi-Finals and will play Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division champions Chertsey Town at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 19 May (12:15).

In an interview with the Kentish Gazette, Smith said: “There is that element of revenge but there is also that element of whether we want Cray Valley or Corinthian going up.

“Our ambition is to get promoted. Will it be a tougher league next year with Cray Valley at the top with the money they spend? Do you want a side that don’t pay any money or one that throw bucket loads at it and are going to get more from the Vase final at Wembley?

“We just have to make sure we put a decent side out for the integrity of the league.”

Smith told on the Friday evening, “We will be doing everything in our power to win a game of football. We have played Cray Valley three times and I don’t think there was anything between us in those games.

“If anyone thinks we want to see Cray Valley celebrate again in front of us again then they are mad!  I’ve had plenty of sleepless nights reliving the previous time!”

The secretary of the Southern Counties East Football League sent an email to Canterbury City’s secretary the day before the game.

“The league were concerned to read Ben’s comments in the penultimate paragraph, which could be viewed as assisting with the result of tomorrow’s game to suit Canterbury City that has the potential to influence the destiny of the league championship.

“The league fully expect your club to field the best possible side available in a match of such importance.”

Having reported on the game, there was no clear evidence that Canterbury City threw the game so that Cray Valley would win the league title at Salters Lane and keep Corinthian in the Southern Counties East Football League and the side selected to play the game is one of the strongest and vastly experienced in the division.

Canterbury City issued a statement on their Twitter account on Sunday to confirm Smith has left the club.

“The directors of Canterbury City would like to offer both to the SCEFL and its member clubs their unreserved apologies for any offence caused by a recent KM Gazette article.

“The comments expressed in that article by first team manager Ben Smith are not representative of Canterbury City as a football club or ones that we can in any way endorse.

“Canterbury City can confirm that the club and Ben Smith have parted company with immediate effect.

“We will announce the appointment of a new first team manager in due course.”

Canterbury City have also lost the services of head coach Will Graham, who has stepped down from his role.

“I would like to thank everyone at Canterbury City for a fantastic few months at the club,” he tweeted.

“I have loved every minute, especially working with Ben Smith, Tim Dixon and Ben Brown, whom are great friends and management team.

“Looking forward to next season back coaching in the Isthmian League.”

A League statement added: "A number of comments have appeared in the press and on social media following the announcement by Canterbury City they had parted company with their manager Ben Smith.

"The League would like to confirm that we did not receive a complaint from any of our member clubs, specifically Corinthian or K Sports, regarding comments attributed to Ben in an article published in last week's Kentish Gazette.

"The League made contact with Canterbury City Football Club last Friday expressing their own concerns over those comments."

Tuesday night's game at Bearsted has been cancelled.

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