Paul Lansdale has been instrumental in all of this and his energy and vision has been incredible and he won’t rest until he gets to where he wants to be and I’ll follow him all the way through that journey, says Sevenoaks Town boss Micky Collins
SEVENOAKS TOWN manager Micky Collins says he has to pinch himself as he reflects on the progress made during his 250 games in charge of the club.
The 48-year-old took the helm at Greatness Park on 1 May 2014 and has turned the clubs fortunes around, alongside chairman Paul Lansdale.
The Oaks were perennial strugglers in the Kent League, finishing bottom of the league in 2013 and second-from-bottom in the maiden Southern Counties East Football League campaign a year later.
Collins took over and guided Sevenoaks Town to an eighth-place finish in his first season in charge (2014-15), before finishing in fifth-place and third-place before claiming the league title in 2018.
Last season, Collins lead Sevenoaks Town to their highest ever finish in their history by finishing in tenth-place in the Isthmian League South East Division and are currently in fourth-place in the table with 21 points from their 12 games, six points adrift of leaders Cray Valley (Paper Mills), whom are in their debut season at this level.
Collins reflected on his 250th game in charge of the club yesterday, a 1-0 defeat at Guernsey.
Green Lions talisman striker Ross Allen scored the only goal of the game in the 22nd minute and the heroics of Guernsey keeper Callum Stanton left Sevenoaks frustrated.
“They scored a really good goal first half, a good set-piece which caught us out, fair play,” said Collins.
“We had two or three good chances before it. First half was really even. I thought second half they didn’t came out of their 18-yard box. They caught us on the break a couple of times because we went gung-ho.
“Watching the game back, we should have had two blatant penalties, didn’t get them and we battered them and their goalkeeper was man-of-the-match.
“It’s one of those when you come away and you know we were the better team on the day and didn’t get nothing out of it.
“I’m very proud of the way we played, we played some really good football, created loads of chances and just couldn’t get it over the line, simple as that.
“The football we played yesterday was the mark of it. I thought we were excellent!
“They’re a good Guernsey side this year. It was only their second home game this season because of their pitch renovations or around the track and I thought we put them to the sword.
“They’re such an honest bunch, their hospitality was amazing and after the game, all of their directors came up to me and all said ‘how have you not won that game of football?’
“As a manager, you come away and you can play really badly sometimes and come away with a win or a draw but that bothers you because you played badly and what’s the problem? Whereas yesterday we just didn’t put the ball in the back of the net, simple as that.”
Sevenoaks Town target a crowd of over 200 for next Saturday’s game against struggling Ramsgate at Greatness Park.
The Rams are in the bottom three with eight points from 10 games and are only four points clear of bottom side East Grinstead Town after they went down to their sixth league defeat of the season yesterday, a 2-1 defeat at Haywards Heath Town.
“They need results, they need points. They’re going to come and try and get them, no two ways around it,” said Collins.
“They’re building with some new players and are strengthening and they’re going to be strong and want to come out and try get a result against us so we have to be on our mettle and bounce back from a defeat.
“We’ve had a tough start when I look at all the teams that we’ve played and we’ve played nearly every top side and a lot of them away.
“We just need to try to get back to winning ways, try and keep it solid at home and put on a performance.
“I’m sure if we turn up and play to the level we did on Saturday and we manage to take the chances when we get them, then we can win the game, no doubt.”
Sevenoaks Town’s fortunes have vastly improved with Lansdale and Collins at the helm, but things were a lot different before Collins arrived at the club.
“It was tough, it was really tough at the start because Paul had taken it over and managed it with Micky Hazard and they found it hard and then he wanted to progress the first team and push it on and try to improve the standing not only in the community but in the football world,” reflected Collins.
“It was tough in the early days. I had a year out after Erith & Belvedere and Paul and I had always been good friends and he took the project to me and it wasn’t just about managing them, he sold me the focus on where we wanted to be and where we could take the club and he’s stuck by his word and so have the directors, all the way through and that side of it has always been fantastic.
“It was difficult to recruit players, people didn’t want to come here and they were the whipping boys for five or six years and it was difficult to change that momentum and it was tough to sell those dreams to people and this is where we’re going to be in five years’.
“Players I approached didn’t want to come because we’ve always finished bottom.
“We changed that and we finished eighth in the first season and it was a steady progression and we progressed off the pitch as quickly as we progressed on it.
“We set the target of five years to get promoted and we did it in four. It’s just gone on and it’s just an incredible story.”
Collins revealed that the club have paid off the money spent on laying a 3G pitch during the summer of 2018 and the club is now a vibrant community hub.
“Listen, the most important thing about having a 3G pitch wasn’t about having a great surface to play on and can we progress up the leagues. It was always about what can we give the community?
“What can we give the 1,000 members we have that play football there. We have walking football on a Saturday, boys and girls teams, ladies teams and vets.
“Everybody that’s involved at the club gets to train on it and we were separated all over the area using facilities that we were paying for but now we use our own.
“The community benefits from it and that’s the big plus. It’s great to play and train on it, it is a great surface still, it’s amazing!
“It’s all about what we can bring for the rest of the club. We needed to pay it off, which Paul’s done and then we can move onto the second stage of the project and can we keep up with what we’re doing off the pitch. Fortunately, we’ve managed to do that and probably surpassed it.
“We’re probably a year, maybe 18 months ahead of schedule where we are on the pitch as we are off it. It’s just a work in progress.
“It’s been amazing! I come down on a Tuesday night and watch how many kids’ are training. I’ve been down there this morning watching our under 15s play and they’re a really good side and there’s two teams waiting to come on afterwards.
“We’ve outgrown the changing rooms. We need more. There’s two games going on, on the outside pitch.
“The place is a bit of a hub. I turn up and it’s a fantastic place to be. Everyone recognises what we’re doing and the youth are looking at getting in the first team and we’re bringing kids’ through.
“It’s something that Paul and I always dreamed off and we’re making it happen and we’re making it happen quicker than we thought we would to be honest.”
The next project is to build a new clubhouse and changing room facilities at the Mill Lane base.
“The latest so far is we had a pre-planning meeting with the local council and they’ve given us a push forward to what kind of design we want to come up with, which is being dealt with and is in design stage now,” said Collins.
“The next stage will be a big push to getting it over the line and then it takes us to a different level.
“We’ve outgrown the facilities and it’s difficult now because if you’ve got boys’ playing in the morning and girls playing after the game, you need extra changing rooms, you need that privacy.
“For me, not only have the council have got to step up but other people have got to come and support it.
“What we’re putting in place for the community is incredible and hopefully they come and deliver it. Hopefully we’ll put a shovel in the ground and start building it and the legacy is set.
“Paul’s been instrumental in all of this and his energy and vision has been incredible and he won’t rest until he gets to where he wants to be and I’ll follow him all the way through that journey.”
Could that journey be the Isthmian League Premier Division – the seventh-tier of English football – next season?
“To be fair, at the start of this season the remit was don’t get relegated,” said Collins.
“Could we finish ninth because we finished tenth last year, which was the highest ever we’ve finished since 1883 and we’ve broken every single record since I’ve been there.
“All off a sudden we’ve been top of the league for one week and we’ve dropped down a little bit but we’re in the play-off scenario.
“We have to pinch ourselves. I had a meeting with Paul for a couple of hours and you have to look at what we’ve actually achieved.
“We’ve come away from Guernsey with a 1-0 defeat yesterday but we’re playing Guernsey at a decent level of football and acquitting ourselves well and playing attractive football and unfortunately never got a result.
“If you’ve got a solid foundation off the pitch, you can build on it. There was only one season where we were put under pressure and that was the season we decided that we wanted to get out (of the Southern Counties East Football League) and win it and fortunately we’ve delivered it.
“Since then I’ve never been put under pressure. We started last season and it was tough and we found it difficult to start off with.
“We got to grips of it and since then once the pressure is off the players can enjoy themselves and relax and play football.
“Listen, if we manage play-offs and get up through the back door this season the club would embrace it. That’s already been put in place. The ground needs a couple of bits doing that would be done and we would go up.
“Would we find it (Isthmian Premier) tough? Probably, because we haven’t got the other bit ready yet but you can’t stop progress. If it happens this year it happens and if it doesn’t then so be it. We’ll embrace it and have another good summer and then we’ll push on with the clubhouse and see where we go for next season.”
Sevenoaks Town have won 131 of Collins’ 250 games in charge and have drawn 45 of them and have lost 74 games.
Visit Sevenoaks Town’s website: www.sevenoakstownfc.co.uk
Sevenoaks Town v Ramsgate
Isthmian League South East Division
Saturday 23 November 2019
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Greatness Park, Mill Lane, Seal Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 5BX