East Grinstead just suited me in terms of my step in my career and they thought it was a good fit for me so that’s why I came, says Matt Longhurst

Sunday 18th October 2015

MATT LONGHURST says he has not ruled out the possibility of making a move for any of his former players.

Longhurst took charge of East Grinstead Town for the first time yesterday after quitting Southern Counties East Football League side Erith & Belvedere on Friday 9 October.

He has brought with him his trusted backroom staff of Billy Manners, Lee Barnett and Sonny Gladdish from Park View Road and two players too, central midfielder George Benner and central midfielder Colin Richmond, who only lasted the first half through a lack of match fitness.

Tony Beckingham, the joint-manager of Hythe Town, admitted it felt “awkward and a bit strange” to return to his former club in only his sixth game in joint-charge of The Cannons.

Hythe fielded Ryan Johnson, Ben Wilson and substitute Sam May – while striker Alfie May was sitting out through suspension – who have played under Longhurst at both Corinthian and Erith & Belvedere.

Yesterday’s game finished all-square at 2-2.  Both of East Grinstead’s goals were scored by on-loan Gillingham striker, Greg Cundle, 18, while Craig Thompson opened his goalscoring account for Hythe with two strikes, his second coming at the death to salvage a point.

When asked whether he will submit seven-day approaches for the quartet, Longhurst replied: “I don’t think you can ever say never but certainly at this moment in time I’d say no because to be fair to the boys since I came they’ve been fantastic.

“I want to settle the group down so yes we do need to bring one or two players in but I don’t think I’ll be in a position to talk about other people’s players so at the moment I wouldn’t say so.

“But at the same time I certainly don’t think I’ll sit here and say they’ll never going to play for me ever again, whether that’s at East Grinstead or anywhere else.

“Certainly with Ryan Johnson and Alfie (May) there certainly at an age where they’re going to be playing football for the next five to ten years. 

“I wouldn’t rule it out ever but it’s not something we’re going to be looking at, at the moment.”

Longhurst is relishing the opportunity to manage in the Ryman League Division One South for the first time in his career.

He said: “It’s a fantastic club, great opportunity for me.  I’ve been in the Kent League for a long time. I think I’ve said to you when you’ve interviewed me previously I want to manage at the highest level I possibly can.

“It’s got similarities to Corinthians and Erith & Belvedere in terms of people behind the scenes do a lot of work. There’s a lot of people who do four or five different jobs here but they want to take the club in the right direction. It just needs a bit of stabilising on the pitch in terms of the squad.

“Everything I’ve asked for they’ve given me so far, obviously it’s a nice feeling. They’ve spent a lot of money and a lot of time here (at the ground) getting things right, making sure that it’s available to get promotion. That’s a long way away where we are at the moment but it’s certainly geared up for that. It’s a decent sized pitch for us to go and play on.

“It just suited me in terms of my step in my career and they thought it was a good fit for me so that’s why I came.”

Longhurst explained why he brought Benner and Richmond to him to East Grinstead, who have climbed up a place into the bottom three on 7 points from 11 games, 7 points adrift of Hythe Town.

“I want Erith & Belvedere to do well. I don’t want to rip up what I’ve spent a long time doing – I’m not like that!

“They’re two players who have both played at this level for quite a long time, lots of games at this level and George sort of come in and played for me at Erith & Belvedere as not a favour but certainly because I was there.

“When I got the job they both had already left Erith & Belvedere and asked us would you take us with you? They had a couple of offers. They both know the way I play.

“Colin’s a little bit short of match fitness at the moment. He hasn’t played a lot of games recently for Erith & Belvedere so that’s why we took him off at half-time.  He wasn’t quite at the pace.”

Beckingham was asked yesterday whether he expected an approach from East Grinstead Town for the club’s former Erith & Belvedere contingent, who arrived at Reachfields Stadium before Longhurst left Park View Road.

Beckingham said: “Players do what they do, don’t they?  That was before Matt got the East Grinstead job.  They decided they wanted a new challenge really.  We were made aware of that and they’re good players. I’m not going to turn them down.

“Look, listen, they’re not under contract so they can do what they want to do but they’re committed to Hythe Town as far as I know.  I think they’re happy at Hythe Town and long may that continue.

“Alfie (May) is suspended at the moment and we missed him badly today. He gives us that little spark as well but no listen he knows them well, Matt, if he comes in for them he comes in for them.

“Having said that, you can only come in for three of them. There’s a system for doing it and he’ll have to abide by it but on the other hand if players don’t want to play for you, they’re no good for you.

“Talking about Ryan Johnson, I thought he was excellent.  I thought he was really, really one of a few bright sparks for us on the day. He done well.”

Meanwhile, on the subject of transfers, Harlow-based striker Stuart Zanone has made his FOURTH move of the season having signed for Sevenoaks Town after leaving their Southern Counties East Football League rivals Greenwich Borough.

He started the season at Ashford United – where he broke the club’s goalscoring record last season – and then moved further into Kent for a very short spell at Hythe Town.

The Oaks have also signed former Cray Valley and Erith & Belvedere striker Adam Marsh.