The first team will be run on a budget which for the next year or two will target consolidation with a wider group of younger players with Matt Longhurst at the helm, says Erith & Belvedere joint-chair Paul Springett

Monday 20th November 2023

ERITH & BELVEDERE joint-chair Paul Springett insists manager Matt Longhurst is the man to lead the club with a much younger squad amid budget cuts at Park View Road.

The club sealed the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division title by one point at the end of last season, with the former Ramsgate and Burgess Hill Town boss coming in for the last nine league games to get the club over the line in his third spell in charge.

Then chairman Adrian Deane had parted company with Tony Beckingham and then his assistant Andy Constable during the course of the season, without issuing statements as to why, despite their successful season before turning to Longhurst, who had just departed Burgess Hill Town.

Erith & Belvedere clinched the ninth-tier title with a playing budget of £2,500 per week and that was increased for their return to the Isthmian League, their first campaign since their ill-fated one season in the First Division North back in season 2013-14.

Springett revealed yesterday that Erith & Belvedere’s manager at the time, Micky Collins, paid him £40 per week during the club’s Kent League title winning season in 2012-13 - but those days are sadly long gone.

There’s players at Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division leaders Faversham Town (that’s one level beneath the Deres) are being paid around the £1,000 per week mark this season. 

Sammy Moore’s side have lost four of their 16 league games, despite a playing budget of around £10,000 per week – a record for that division, the NINTH TIER of English football.

Faversham Town are level on points (34) with Chislehurst based side Glebe, although Faversham do have a game in hand going into tomorrow’s round of matches.

The Lilywhites dropped out of the Isthmian League South East Division with a budget of around £6,000 per week last season – which was a lot more than play-off semi-finalists Beckenham Town and Hythe Town combined.

It doesn’t take much to work out which football club’s are getting value for their money - and Glebe chairman Rocky McMillan revealed a few weeks ago that he cut his playing budget from the one he had last season.

Longhurst has revealed he has had his playing budget cut twice during the first 15 weeks of this season and results have dipped and are currently on a nine match winless run.

However, Erith & Belvedere put in a very impressive performance at home to seventh-placed side Chichester City in a 1-1 draw at Park View Road yesterday.

Longhurst revealed he was meeting with husband and wife joint-chair Paul and Amy Springett today – and Mr Springett has every faith that Longhurst can achieve Isthmian League South East Division safety at the end of this season, with a much younger playing squad as the one that he started the season with, as the club look to live within its means.

The club has announced that striker Marcel Barrington has been released tonight.

“Firstly, I would like to say thank you for the warm welcome I have received in the three-and-a-half years since coming back to the club as a director and most recently in taking the joint-chair role along with my wife Amy,” said Mr Springett in a statement.

“The club finds itself in a somewhat unusual situation in the sense it is debt free. It has a fantastic youth system and is slowly building off the pitch.

“We have fantastic sponsors, some great friends and loyal supporters. It is a fantastic family club with 100 years of history.

“In the first year, we worked with a zero budget, which would allow the club to work on improving the commercial activity and be in a healthier position to kick on in year two, which we were very happy to do.

“In year two-three, the budget was greatly improved so we could push and try to deliver promotion, which was achieved.  It was a fantastic effort by everyone involved.

“Throughout last season the club has known that promotion for the team would bring as many challenges as it does opportunities. However, the promotion has compounded the former and opened up the latter.

“Everyone involved in football at this level knows that getting promoted is great fun – but playing at a higher level as a community club, with no additional income, is another matter.

“In fact, with the cost-of-living crisis and other essential commitments, there is even less money available – so we need to find our own way for the whole club to succeed.

“The first team will be run on a budget which for the next year or two will target consolidation, supported by a wider strategy to spread the experience of higher-level football across a wider group of younger players, enabling them to grow together.

“This way, we are on a structured journey towards future promotions in a way which is consistent with our commitment to the community, whilst leveraging our proven ability to develop the best young players in the region.

“This is something that our manager Matthew Longhurst has a strong track record in and why he was the number one candidate when we hired him.

“This has been shown in recent weeks with improved performances with a more dynamic, youthful looking squad with the average age of 22 across the group.

“Matthew has been fantastic in the discussions we have had regarding the budget cuts and whilst I know how difficult those inconsistencies have been, he has remained professional and worked tirelessly in the background to try and deliver results.  That’s not easy. He continues to work diligently night after night, watching opposing teams, lifting moral in the playing squad and planning for games.

“He has been extremely useful off the pitch also trying to engage with the community in multiple club offerings.

“We invite everyone in the community to understand that the overall picture is one of ‘patient, realistic ambition,’ underpinned by our commitment to our values, in order to grow and succeed over the next few years.

“All football fans and players want success today; however, we need to focus on building success ourselves, with the help of our community, to which the club belongs.

“If you look across our league it is important that we utilise the finances that we do have correctly. Most clubs in the Isthmian South East have 3G pitches, which is a fantastic revenue generator or a strong support base.

“We sit in the middle of those two and it’s something we need to work on and off the pitch to try to catch up.

“Thank you for the continued support and I’m excited about the future of the club. Thank you to all of the supporters, to our sponsors and our management team for that continued hard work and commitment.”

Meanwhile, Erith & Belvedere’s under 18 side play their Charlton Athletic counterparts in The FA Youth Cup Second Round at Park View Road on Thursday, 23 November (19:45).

Oh, and one club in the TENTH-TIER of English football has a playing budget of £4,000 a week.

Bring back the days of playing for the love of the game, like they do at Corinthian, Fisher, Kennington, Stansfeld and Sutton Athletic, five club's in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division with zero playing budgets.