I'm personally relishing the opportunity to take on all the tasks that are ahead of us, says FC Elmstead manager Danny Wakeling
FC ELMSTEAD manager Danny Wakeling says he’s relishing the opportunity to bring the club together during their inaugural Kent Invicta League campaign.
The club were given a place in Step Six of non-league football after finishing as runners-up in the Kent County League Division Two West table last season but will be a part of a 20 club Kent Invicta League next season.
FC Elmstead will be playing their home games in Bromley at Holmesdale’s Oakley Road ground and kick-off their campaign on Saturday 8 August 2015.
General manager Fabio Rossi and Wakeling have been putting in the hours to ensure the club will be playing at their highest ever level of football when the new season gets underway.
“Well it took the two attempts to get into the Kent Invicta League, but now it is done its full steam ahead as a football club,” said Wakeling.
“We always felt positive regarding the appeal but after general manager Fabio Rossi and I went to Wembley back in April, accompanied by Denise Richmond for the last stage of the Kent Invicta League application process, it was a blow initially to be refused entry.
“However, the three points used as reasons for refusal (which were the exact same as the ones that initially held back Forest Hill Park FC) didn't seem correct and they were rightly challenged and ultimately overturned; so we moved on.
“I spoke with Fabio and informed him that I would start planning for Kent County League Division One West even though the appeal was going in.
“There wasn't a genuine time scale set out by The FA with regards to the appeal process and the initial decision and announcement was almost a week later than we had been told that we would be informed by, so with that in mind I had to just deal with reality and the current situation and that anything else from that point on would be a bonus.
“The existing players were contacted and informed of the initial decision by The FA and I moved swiftly to secure pre-season games.
“I have to say that the initial bad news didn't alter the opinion of any player. Once it was digested they simply accepted it and all to a man wanted to purely get moving and to be told of pre-season plans regardless of which league the club was in.
“I'm proud to say that shows the character of the players and is a testament to how we have been running the club since I took the role of manager last December.
“We've been in limbo as a club since attending the last stage of the application at Wembley in April and we only got the positive news last week so it's a long time to have to stay patient and level headed whilst fielding questions from various people but ultimately we got what we wanted in the end.
“Once the news was announced that we had then been accepted into the Kent Invicta League, the overriding emotions were a mix of joy and relief. Joy at the excitement of a new venture for the club and relief from all those concerned involved with the application process that it was finally over and we could move on.
“My own personal joy lasted about five minutes as I began to re-arrange some pre-season games and leave some in place as we will now have a reserve team within the Kent County League.
“We had slowly built a player base of around 30 since December with the view of Invicta football for the following season and to have a second XI to retain a place in the Kent County League.
“That allied with promoting several youngsters from our u21s (who despite never functioning well as a team in the u21 League, there were several good players with the right character to be able to move up into a more fitting environment for themselves to flourish and develop at a better rate) has created a good environment with a good strong vibe full of modest, humble and talented players in the club.
“From Christmas onwards, recruitment was done with the eye on Kent Invicta League level and we played out our Kent County League season carefully integrating new players, giving young players an opportunity mixed in with the players that had been retained.
“Of course that leads to patches of inconsistency here and there on the pitch at times but we played a variety of systems and mixed our styles appropriately in order to develop the bigger picture.
“One area we massively improved was training. Prior to last December I was informed there were one or two adults training with some u21s and u18s. From Christmas onwards it was regularly a case of 20 plus seniors week after week (still mixed with youth at times) as the right players had been signed and the switch in mentality slowly mirrored the aspirations of a football club that was in the process of application to Step Six football.
“As far as player recruitment is concerned right now; yes there will be further additions here and there and that is part and parcel of any football club at any given level.
“A couple of players had agreed to come in for the summer with an eye on Kent Invicta League football but even once informed of the initial refusal, they were willing to sign regardless which I admire.
“We don't have a playing budget like some clubs that we will be up against but that's now part and parcel of making the leap into Step Six and we certainly won't be grumbling about that.
“Our club will operate in a way that is correct for us and I couldn't be happier with how Fabio Rossi has outlined that.
“We are very pleased to have the ground share agreement at Holmesdale’s Oakley Road ground in Bromley and I'm sure we will maintain a healthy and prosperous relationship with them throughout the agreement and at the same time it's important to remember that although it's financially sustainable due to the structure and finances of the club.
“It is the key financial overhead and therefore vital that everyone involved in the club understands and respects that when the inevitable "budget stories" get banded about during the season.
“We are now a part of a level that the club has wanted to be at for a while and it's time to survey, absorb and adjust.
“The club itself was formed in 1958 so has a wealth of history and the Saturday end of the club has the opportunity to add to that history at this new level but it will be run in a level headed and intelligent manner.
“That brings me to structuring the club over the coming months. With a first team and with a reserves now being added, we also have a new wave of u21s in the club. That and the possibility of a third XI of a more social manner being added would double the size of the club on a Saturday.
“This requires experienced steering and guidance and is something I have managed previously having set up Saturday football within a club who had only had Sunday football during their history at the time.
“I've encountered many an ego when it comes to setting guidelines for a football club in the past and it's important to remember that the game of football belongs to everyone and we must always do what is right for any football club we represent over the insecurity or self-motivated agendas that do arise from time to time.
“What is vital for us now is establishing the pathway from u21 football through to first XI. All players, particularly young players need to know the progression pathway is there for them and therefore it's key to have recruited players intelligently across the age spectrum within the senior end of the club firstly, so it can allow for the flow of youth to have that chance to progress over time.
“First and foremost though, we need to just bed in and then slowly and as meticulously as possible move forward as a club.
“I'm currently having many conversations with potential additions to the clubs management team with regards to coaching and reserve team management roles.
“The senior end of the squad will be classed as one squad - not as a first and second XI in isolation.
“I envisage many players being used for Kent Invicta League football this year as the league itself has grown in size to 20 clubs, giving a full and extensive playing programme of 38 games which as a club is a monumental leap from 18-22 odd Kent County League games per year that the club has previously been used to.
“Therefore, we will need the pathway to be strong as playing opportunities will certainly arise for many players with a constant stream of games on Saturday’s and midweek.
“Overseeing this and linking all parts of the chain will be a new experience for many involved with the club and I'm sure we will make mistakes and learn from them along the way but also have fun by making progress on the inside as a football club and outside on the pitch.
“We are still looking for physiotherapists/sports therapists, still nailing members of the management team to come into the club, any others keen to help with administration as I seek to free myself up from secretarial duties plus we are hopeful of increased sponsorship, as well as tuning the pre-season fixtures and seeking an aspiring or local goalkeeping coach.
“It's all going on and due to the drawn out process of the Kent Invicta League application via the FALC and subsequent appeal; the close season just simply hasn't happened for some of us but we are in now and that's what matters so the work needs doing.
“As far as pre-season goes, we are back in as of next Saturday 27 June. All players have been notified and will receive a full itinerary.
“I'm pleased to announce that we've retained Jack White as coach who has been a part of FC Elmstead for many years, as well as having stints with Holmesdale, Glebe and Bromley.
“I’m delighted to have added Steve Devereux with the view to him mixing playing/coaching and assisting within the management team and his spell at the helm at Crockenhill last season will stand him in good stead.
“They made great strides forward under him last year and at one point I almost agreed to work with him but took this opportunity instead and I'm pleased that we have eventually hooked up.
“Also coming in with the angle of working with the playing squad in a fitness capacity is a Jamie Fernandes. I felt he made a good case to step up from within the playing squad to take the role and is keen to develop his CV within the game. He will also work with two other clubs - Long Lane and Erith 147 - in pre-season which is testament to his character to develop and hone his skill-set and he is mature enough to accept the challenge in retaining his place as a player and balance that obvious risk. He has a great passion for the role and will add an excellent dimension to our pre-season.
“As for talking of players, I won't do that at this precise moment. I'm just as happy to have retained these lads that have come together since Christmas as well as add what I believe is required. Plus the fact registration forms can't be processed until July 1st anyway so once something is signed and sealed only then can anyone actually confirm anything.
“As with most things in life and particularly within football, it's better to talk about things after they've been done and achieved as opposed to just spout hot air and clichés galore.
“I'm fully aware of our aspirations and objectives in year one as a Kent Invicta League football club and I shall leave that side of things for our general manager Fabio Rossi to publicly announce in time.
“What I will say is that I'm personally relishing the opportunity to take on all the tasks that are ahead of us as a football club.
“I'm keen to get the required elements in place to develop the infrastructure at the club and although it will take time and patience we will get there.
“I'm very happy with recruitment so far with regards to the management team and players plus of course those players retained for the squad.
“I'm also honoured to be working alongside so many good people who will be making up the environment of the club and proud to be playing a leading role within that.”
Danny Wakeling can be contacted by email email@example.com