It would have been nice to be given longer to turn things around, says axed Keith Bird

Monday 22nd September 2014
AXED manager Keith Bird believes he wasn’t given enough time to turn things around at Cray Wanderers.

Chairman Gary Hillman appointed the former Bromley reserve team manager after ending Ian Jenkins’ 23-year love affair with the club on 27 September 2013.

The club were rooted to the foot of the Ryman Premier League at the time of Jenkins’ departure with four points from 11 games, but Bird failed to stop the rot and the club were relegated for only the second time in their 154-year history, finishing in last place with 26 points from 46 games.

Bird insisted the club were pushing for the play-offs this season, but results were disappointing and he left the club sitting third-from-bottom in the Ryman League Division One North table with two wins and a draw from ten league games.

Bird’s last move for the club was to bring in Laurent Hamici from Ryman Premier League side Dulwich Hamlet and the striker scored a last minute consolation in their 4-1 home defeat to Cheshunt last Tuesday, but it couldn’t stop Bird losing his job at Hayes Lane.

Bird has waited nearly a week for the dust to settle before issuing a statement today.

“Well I think there’s many things I’m proud off,” said Bird.

“When we first arrived there was nothing there really. We had less than a quarter-of-a-pitch to train on. There was no physio, no coaching staff, the players had no training kit, no tracksuits. We didn’t even have any balls, bibs or cones!

“We managed to professionalise things on and off the field.  We found a great training facility and I also introduced sponsors to the club and we also introduced Dave Francis, who is vice-chairman now.

“The whole thing now is much more professionalised than it was when we first walked through the door.

“In terms of last season really there was no hope for us to stay in the Ryman Premier League with the budget we had.  The person who helped finance the club left a year or two before we came in so budget wise it was a Ryman Division One type budget and this year was really about consolidating our position and moving on in the long-term.

“I guess overall I’m disappointed we parted company.  I think we just needed a little more time. If we got until Christmas things would have looked very different.

“I’ve been in charge this season, we’ve only had ten league games and seven of those were against top half of the table teams and we really struggled with an injury crisis.

“We had a pre-season where we won all but one of our pre-season games and at the start of pre-season we had five or six key players missing through injuries or illness and with such a small squad any manager would have found that a challenge.

“We even had Darren Behcet, our goalkeeper, out for five of those ten games as well. 

“There were a lot of things going against us and after ten league games with a much easier run of fixtures to come it would have been nice to see things through until Christmas and I think by then it would have been very different.”

Michael Paye – Bird’s assistant – and Gary Abbott took the reigns in a joint-caretaker management role for Saturday’s trip to league leaders Needham Market, which was lost by three goals to nil, thanks to Sam Newson’s hat-trick.

When asked about the appointment, Bird replied: “A little bit surprised if I’m honest! 

“Mike and I came to the club together and also the rest of the staff, we all came in together.  Mike and I always worked as a two and recently we brought in Gary Abbott and worked as a three.

“We made all the team selections together and decided what we’d do in training together and how we’d set up against opposition, together.

“That’s a little bit surprising to me. If we’d all gone that would have made sense or if another manager had come in immediately that would have made sense.

“It would have been nice to be given longer than that ten league games that we had.

“If you think about The FA Cup as well, we won our first FA Cup game (against Molesey) and against Tooting & Mitcham they scored in the eighth minute of injury time, which was literally the last kick of the game, so we were unlucky in that regard.

“I’m disappointed really and I think the chairman and the vice-chairman felt they probably had to be seen to be doing something and unfortunately I paid the price for that.

“It would have been nice if we were a little bit more patient I think.”

Bird says he is looking to get back into football as quickly as possible.

“There’s not that many jobs around and there’s a lot of good managers about.

“Ideally I’ll be looking to get straight back into it, either as a manager, assistant or even as a coach, depending on what the opportunities are.

“Bromley Football Club has always been very good to me and they invited me and my wife down to their game on Saturday as their guest.

“Mark Goldberg (Bromley’s manager) and I have spoken about something there for me at Bromley at some point.

“Hopefully something will come up and hopefully that will be sooner or later.”

The Wands’ travel to Romford on Wednesday night, before hosting fellow strugglers Burnham Ramblers at Hayes Lane on Sunday, 28 September.

The Wands slipped down a place to second-from-bottom in the table following their eighth league defeat of the season on Saturday, with 7 points from 11 games, a point clear of basement side Redbridge.

The club’s small fan-base will be hoping that Paye and Abbott can avoid a return to the Southern Counties East Football League after Jenkins guided the club to back-to-back Kent League titles back in 2003 and 2004.

Meanwhile, the club have unveiled the signing of Bromley-based defender Marlon Patterson, 30, who has signed from Dulwich Hamlet.

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