Farnie relishing FA Cup clash against his former club - EXCLUSIVE

Sunday 09th July 2006

Excitement is building as football returns to the county, writes Stephen McCartney.

The first pre-season friendly took place yesterday when Margate, tipped for Ryman Premier League success, drew a young Millwall side 1-1 in front of a superb crowd of 704 at Hartsdown Park.

But just a couple of day’s ago, the draws for the early stages of the FA Cup -sponsored by E.ON - FA Trophy and FA Vase (both in partnership with Carlsberg) were unveiled.

Instead of printing each fixture involving Kentish sides, please visit the Football Association’s website at www.thefa.com

But some interesting ties were thrown out of the hat. And although the giants of the game such as Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea aren’t at all interested at this stage of the season - we are!

The Kent League campaign gets underway on 12th August, but at the time of writing they don’t know who they’ll be playing on the opening day of the season as they have to wait for the Ryman League to unveil their fixture lists.

So once they do by next Friday, the Kent League fixture secretary will be hard at work. Let’s have some sensible midweek fixtures please?

The extra preliminary round of the biggest and best cup competition gets underway just seven days later.

Croydon (although in Surrey have been brought into the Kentish Football family as they’re now a Kent League club), Deal Town, Whitstable Town, Slade Green and Erith Town get their FA Cup campaign underway.

But two ties that stick out like a sore thumb are the ties between Kent League rivals Hythe Town-Lordswood and Herne Bay-Erith & Belvedere

Jason Lillis’ and Wayne Brown’s sides are tipped for successful Kent League campaign’s and is the tie of the round involving our sides.

It’s just a shame this fixture takes place on the opening day of the Ryman League season.

But on Saturday, 2nd September, it’s time for the preliminary round.

And some “big” clubs, with plenty of history, come in at this stage.

Dover Athletic (at home to Bracknell Town), Maidstone United (at home to Burgess Hill Town, which should be played at Bourne Park on Sunday, 3rd September) and Dartford, who travel to Tunbridge Wells.

Tunbridge Wells wrote themselves in the European football history last season, when they defeated Littlehampton Town in their preliminary round replay.

After their game finished 2-2 after extra time - the Wells managed by Kevin Metcalf at the time - defeated their Sussex opponents 16-15 on penalties - 40 spot kick’s were taken and two more were needed during the game itself.

The current Tunbridge Wells manager is Martin Farnie (pictured below), who spent two and a half years with the Darts working with former boss Tommy Sampson.

And Farnie spoke EXCLUSIVELY to www.kentishfootball.co.uk
today and cannot wait for the clash against his former club.

The two club’s also play each other at Culverden Stadium - the venue for the FA Cup tie - for a pre-season friendly on Tuesday, 1st August.

But both clubs are relishing the pre-season friendly also - a dress rehearsal to the FA Cup tie maybe?

Farnie, who lead his side to the Kent Senior Trophy final last season but lost on penalties to VCD Athletic, was told of the draw by text message whilst at work.

He said: “I was at work and someone text me and I thought that’s a good draw.

“We’re not going to win the FA Cup so you hope for a good draw financially for the football club.

“And out of all the sides in Kent, with all my connections with the club, I still have some good friends at Dartford it’s a good draw, it will be a good crowd and we’ll see where it takes us.” 

Whoever wins the tie, could host Ryman League Division One South outfit Hastings United, if the east Sussex side defeat Merstham, two weeks later.

But Farnie doesn’t want their pre-season date with the Darts postponed. In fact his side’s game at Chatham Town on Saturday, 22nd July has been called off as the pitch at Maidstone Road won’t be ready following summer work.

“My pre-season always gears around the games I’ve got so I don’t want to change the Dartford game,” said Farnie.

“I don’t see it as an issue, I’m treating it as another pre-season friendly. We’ve got a month before competitive football to hit form before the FA Cup tie.”

But the cup clash between the two sides ensured Darts boss Tony Burman and Farnie exchanged plenty of friendly banter.

“Me and Tony had a good laugh about it,” revealed Farnie. “We’ve got East Grinstead in the FA Vase (first qualifying round on 9 September) and we’ve also got them in a friendly in Crawley somewhere.

But Farnie admitted it’s difficult to arrange friendlies - as pitches are hard to find.

And he is searching for a fixture to replace their game at Chatham Town on 22nd July.

“It’s hard to get pre-season friendlies at this moment in time,” he said. “Chatham have pulled out on me because their pitch isn’t right, they’ve had some work done and it’s not ready. I’m speaking to people and they haven’t got pitches.

“To be honest I want to play pre-season matches and go into the league programme playing five or six friendlies.

“It was six but Chatham have pulled out so it’s five now and we can’t get on our pitch until we play Tonbridge Angels (29th July) because of the work we’ve done on the pitch.”

An emotional Farnie felt disappointed that if his side drew Dartford in their FA Cup preliminary round showdown, the replay would be played at Thurrock and not at Princes Park.

The Darts move into their new stadium on 23rd September - too early for Farnie’s men.

“I just think it’s a great draw to be honest,” he said. “I’m going to get loads of stick from the Dartford crowd, especially from a particular section but it will be good, friendly stuff. 

“Yes, I would say we’ve got a chance. Everyone’s got a chance, eleven versus eleven. It depends who hits form on the day.

“I think Dartford will be stronger this year than last year but you never know, it’s the FA Cup.

“But it will be tough. I hope Dartford are pushing for promotion.”

Farnie is desperate to be the first side to play at the 4,100 capacity Princes Park, but may have to settle for Ship Lane, Thurrock for any replay.

He said: “I said to Tony, the downside will be drawing at home and taking them back to their place - Thurrock.

“The ideal scenario would be draw at home and play at their new (Princes Park) stadium.”

But Farnie has plenty of respect for everyone at the Ryman League Division One South newcomers.

“I spent two and a half years, the best club I’ve been at. The people and fans are great. I just loved my time there,” he said.

“If any replay was the first game at their place (Princes Park) there will be over 1,000 at their ground. I would love it to be us.

“If we do draw maybe we could bring the game forward? That would be superb.”

Dartford are run by some superb people and Farnie acknowledges this.

“Steve Irving, Dave Skinner and Peter Martin - you can’t meet better people than these at non-league level.

“They have their club at heart and respect people. You go to other clubs and they look down at people.

“Dartford will always give people a lot of respect and are an honest football club and they’ll always welcome and look after you.

“Their manager is top draw and a good bloke. Paul Sawyer, we get on well like a house on fire ad Robbo (Steve Robinson) is a top bloke.”

With all this talk about Farnie taking on his former club, he hopes all the build up will “deflect” the pressure off his team.

“To be honest the more people that talk about me and deflect from my players will be helpful,” he said.

“The spotlight will be on me with my connections with Dartford and will defect the pressure off the players.

“The players are excited, they like playing against top sides. If I can take some of the pressure, the crowd will get on my back. They got on my back when I was there anyway, but friendly banter - nothing nasty.

“When I go back there I get loads of grief - but nice grief. I get on well with their fans. I think they liked me and I thought I did a good job at Dartford under difficult circumstances but if they give me grief and not my players, then that won’t be a problem.”

Another fixture that throws up a manager taking on his former club is the preliminary round clash between Ashford Town and Rye United.

But Sussex County League side Rye, managed by former Ashford Town reserve team manager Mike Robbins (pictured below), must beat Combined Counties League side Bedfont Green in their extra preliminary round tie on 19th August. 

The game has been switched to Bedfont Green because Rye’s pitch won’t be ready in time as their share with the cricket club.

And their opponents will be making their debut in the competition.

Absolutely fantastic!” was the verdict of Robbins. “We couldn’t have asked for a bigger incentive to beat Bedfont,” he told www.ryefc.com

Kent League double winners, Maidstone United, entertain their Ryman League Division One South rivals Burgess Hill Town in the preliminary round, with the winners travelling to Ashford Town - the Middlesex version - two weeks later.

The Stones were also handed a home draw in the preliminary round of the FA Trophy - pleasing joint-manager Alan Walker.

He told www.maidstoneunited.co.uk
:"Whilst it's nice to have home draws in the first rounds of both competitions they are both very, very tough draws.

"As for the FA Cup, we've been unlucky to draw teams at our level and above, Burgess Hill are a decent, well-organised side and will be a tough team to beat.”

The downside of “the luck of the draw” is you could end up with away ties in all competitions.

Whitstable Town boss Marc Seager takes his side to Guildford City in the preliminary round of the FA Cup on 19th August and if successful they’ll travel to Bedfont two weeks later.

He doesn’t have any respite in the FA Vase either - travelling to Shoreham (first qualifying round on 9th September) and then trips to Shoreham, Oakwood, Wick or Lancing follows for the Belmont club if successful.

Seager told www.whitstabletownfc.co.uk “I’ am happy with the draw, but just disappointed that we are away from home.

“The way it is with the cup competitions we could be drawn away every round, it really is down to the luck of the draw.”

Martin Farnie - www.tunbridgewellsfc.co.uk
Mike Robbins -  www.ryefc.com