We will hit obstacles that will really test us along the way, says FC Elmstead boss Danny Wakeling
FC ELMSTEAD manager Danny Wakeling says he is looking forward to the club’s biggest game in their history on Friday night.
The Cocks welcome Orpington to Oakley Road to open the new Kent Invicta League season on their Step Six debut.
The club have agreed a groundshare deal with Southern Counties East Football League side Holmesdale to play their home game at Oakley Road and a crowd of over 200 is expected for Friday night’s match.
Wakeling is relishing the Friday night game.
“Very happy to be honest. It was something Fabio Rossi really wanted to do and promote and when he asked me if I'd be happy with the proposal I was more than happy to oblige,” said Wakeling.
“Non-League football needs a tweak here and there in order to seek more support via people coming through the gate to watch and judging from the response of the players, staff and people I know personally the game has sparked interest.
“To kick off the season for the clubs first year at Kent Invicta League level is an honour for us, so yes, very happy.
“On the basis that the game is opening the Kent Invicta League season and it's under lights on a Friday night, there are some unusual factors there that the players will adjust to.
“Orpington have been a part of the Kent Invicta League since it started, so we just go into the game in a modest and respectful manner which to be fair, has been the mantra of our pre-season.
“I'm expecting a good game, frenetic in parts due to the circumstances surrounding the fixture but I trust all of our players to overcome that and to absorb, adhere and apply what will be our game plan and go from there.
“As I've said, we've had a good pre-season in terms of putting the players together and making sure the individual characteristics and personalities have weaved and blended into the dynamics of a football squad that I feel will represent the club in a modest, hungry and positive manner.
“Yes, I believe there is a big crowd expected at Oakley Road on Friday. Obviously there will be many Kent Invicta League management teams attending to take a look (I know I would be doing that if the opening fixture didn't include our club) and Kent Invicta League committee members.
“I'm sure we will attract some ground hoppers and plenty of people who are itching for their own clubs to be back out on pitch in competitive action at various levels and they can get an early fix of football this Friday.
“I'd love to see plenty of children and families coming to watch and to play a part in serving up a game without some of the melodramatic traits that we all moan about at the higher levels at times.
“Both Orpington and ourselves will have good honest footballers out on the pitch and most will have done a solid days work before turning up hungry and passionate to play a game that they love.
“I’m sure those that chose to watch will appreciate what they get to see.”
FC Elmstead have arranged a collection to raise funds for the family of Junior Dian, 24, the Tonbridge Angels footballer that tragically lost his life in a pre-season friendly at Whyteleafe on 7 July 2015.
Wakeling said: “We've decided to arrange a collection regarding Junior Dian. I've been lucky enough to have spoken to his family having got a contact number from Bernard Tetteh (who is in our playing squad) and they're over the moon at the gesture.
“When a young man such as Junior passes away in such a fashion at a football match - doing what he loves - it strikes a chord and reminds everyone in the game (and life) what truly matters. I'm sure those that attend will donate to the collection.”
Wakeling admitted that he has strengthened his squad for Kent Invicta League football, having finished as runners-up in the NRG Gym Kent County League Division Two West before having their application accepted for Step Six football following an appeal.
He said: “Yes there have been changes to the squad. I came into the club just before Christmas and initially blooded several youngsters from the u21s.
“My remit was to build towards the Kent Invicta League as the club had applied for that level of football. Initially I didn't change too much but implemented a slow evolutionary weeding out process.
“I could have come in a wiped out the lot and totally re-started but I gave lads a chance to buy into what I was building on behalf of the football club.
“I work on trust and trust has to be earned, both ways. When I came into the club a maximum of three maybe four seniors would be training with the u21s. We spun that around to seven and eight, then up to 10 or 12 and eventually we were training with 25-26 by the end.
“Along the way we naturally had players drop off who really had no intention of training or willing to do and buy into the process other players were willing to do.
“Football is a small world and you soon know those who genuinely love the game and are prepared to be a real part of driving an ambitious football club and week by week I just signed or had players training with us with a view to them wishing to buy into what we were looking to achieve.
“You also quickly find out who does and doesn't tell the truth with regards to being able to train or not! Social media can hang a player for that, let alone those already in the club who express a desire for those who aren't pulling and pushing in the right direction as they only want to go forward with those who are really prepared muck in alongside them when push comes to shove.
“With the club initially being refused entry to Kent Invicta League I just informed Fabio that I would crack on and plan for Kent County League Division One West regardless.
“I was overwhelmed that ALL players attracted to us agreed to stay and sign on no matter what. It was an amazing response as a lot of the lads can play higher if they wished. Once we got news our appeal had been successful, it was full steam ahead.
“I'd already planned pre-season fixtures based on Kent County League football and then needed a tweak here and there but we had planned early anyway.
“I announced we would sign 36 players and at this point we have signed 34 players who will play across Kent Invicta League and Kent County League on a weekly basis.
“It's a big leap for the club going from 25 games a season to a minimum of 38 league fixtures at Kent Invicta League level (excluding all cups) and with player unavailability at these levels (weddings, holidays, family issues, work commitments at times etc) quite prevalent at times, based on my experience managing clubs over the years and my own research, I'd say we will have a random six or seven away for games at any given point on a week to week basis. That's without injury or possible suspensions too.
“This way I could also house our best u21 players and keep them in the game at a club where they will be given good guidance and opportunity to blossom as well.
“I've told the current 34 that all lads are under consideration for Kent Invicta League selection on a game by game basis. All players understand this and we will sign another two within the next week or so, and go forward from there.
“The lads’ have been truly superb throughout pre-season. Some haven't made the mark and have been informed and that's football. The lads we have signed have really worked hard and gelled together as one club and one unit.
“It's remarkable how they all push each other and strive for one another to succeed. As a management team we really couldn't have asked for more.
“Saturday, Monday and Thursday nights (although we will train tonight with the game being on a Friday this week) have been excellent. Some teething problems, yes but that's part and parcel of cultivating a group of 36 players to want to work hard and achieve for our football club.
“Tyrone Reid (newly appointed this summer) Jack White (existing coach) Steve Devereux (newly appointed this summer) Martin Munden (newly appointed as Saturday football secretary) Jamie Fernandes (during his stint) Jamie Leggett (who has stepped up at times based on his step 6, step 5 and SSG international coaching experience) have all made positive contributions during the summer thus far.
“They've helped create an enjoyable environment for the players to buy into and play with happiness and expression. We've made huge strides in that area as a football club and we will continue to press ahead at a methodical and careful rate and speed.
“We will look to acclimatise and adjust to our new surroundings and tweak accordingly along the way. I'm sure we will make errors as well but I'm not afraid of that. It's how you respond and learn from errors and mistakes that makes you who you are.
“As individuals and as a football club I can promise this: we will stand beside each other and learn and grow together. Now I've trimmed the last few, I can say that we do not have one single person in our group who looks down upon anybody else.
“Yes, I've signed a few lads who have experience of a higher level or bigger clubs but they have been informed exactly what FC Elmstead will be about and exactly how we will go about our business. We know full well that we will hit obstacles that will really test us along the way (Friday night’s opener vs Orpington being the first one) but I'm so proud to say they've all bought into the ethic as a collective thus far and we have a strong belief that our family minded approach will represent FC Elmstead in a manner that all associated with the club will be proud of.”
Orpington’s manager Byron Beard misses Friday night’s opening game because he’s away on holiday.
Visit FC Elmstead’s website: www.fcelmstead.co.uk
Visit Orpington’s website: www.orpingtonfc.org.uk
FC Elmstead v Orpington
Kent Invicta League
Friday 7th August 2015
Kick Off 7:45pm
At Oakley Road, Bromley, Kent BR2 8HQ