Tony Russell is not going into the Ryman Premier to be an also-ran, says Vickers chairman Gary Rump

Thursday 01st May 2014
VCD ATHLETIC’S title-winning boss Tony Russell says he feels flattered being linked to the vacant managers job at Tonbridge Angels.

The Vickers won the Ryman League Division One North title last weekend on a nail jangling last day of the season.

They thrashed Romford 6-0 at Oakwood, but had to rely on leaders Witham Town slipping up with a 1-1 draw at Cheshunt to claim the title by one point, having finished their glorious season with 99 points from 46 games.

Russell, 35, is assisted by Ray Powell, 34, a firm fans favourite during his successful playing spell at Longmead Stadium.

And the pair have been linked to the manager’s job since Tommy Warrilow decided to call it a day after suffering relegation after three seasons in Conference South.

“Razor phoned me and we had a bit of batter because the chairman said when asked about me, he said ‘I don’t know who he is anyway,” so we found that hilarious.

“I love things like that because when we play them (in the Ryman Premier League) next year he’ll know exactly who I am.

“They’re a great club, fantastic club. Razor speaks so highly of them.

“It’s so flattering to be linked to a club like that.  They’ve got an amazing fan base and Razor tells me stories about them, fantastic.

“It’s very flattering the fans (want me). I think it’s more because of the connection with Razor if I’m honest.

“You’re doing something well when people are talking about you but I don’t think there’s nothing to read into it from our part.”

Russell, whose side play an eye-catching brand of passing football, has sat down with Powell to discuss the possibility of taking over at Tonbridge Angels, if approached by their chairman Steve Churcher.

Russell said: “I’m not going to be lying, me and Razor had a conversation about it.  I’m not going to sit here and lie because it’s a club that Razor loves. He played there for such a long time and he proper loves that club.

“I sat down with Razor and I said to him I don’t think it’s morally right to go for a job when you’re in a job.”

Russell will sit down with his current chairman Gary Rump in the next few weeks to start planning the club’s inaugural campaign in the Ryman Premier League.

“I spoke to the chairman about six weeks ago because I do have concerns about off-the-pitch,” said Russell, who has guided the club to back-to-back promotions from the Kent League to Ryman Premier League.

“I also understand his predicament.  He didn’t foresee us moving the club quickly so fast on the pitch so for a club this size it’s hard work for him, really hard work and they’re fighting tooth and nail to try to keep up with what we’re doing on the pitch.

“I said to him if we go up I’m not going up to make up the numbers.  You’ll never hear me saying I want to finish fifth from bottom. That’s not how I work. 

“I’ll go into every single game, honestly believing whether I’m crackers, I believe that I can win every game and it’s just the way I’m mad. There’s nothing I can do about that and I want him to have that same belief.

“I said to him the last thing I want to do is come to football and get frustrated.  I almost feel I’m getting held back. I want to do stuff.  I get so frustrated and it’s no fault of anyone’s. The last thing I want to do is come to football and fall out with anyone – I haven’t – and I hope I’m not.

“He’s told me to give him six weeks and we’re going to sit back down and then we’re going to talk about where he’s at so he can turn round (and agree a budget for next season).

“If he turns round and say it’s the same wage bill as the Kent League it will be a big blow because I’m not sure if I can go to these players again and say that to them.

“Me and Razor don’t even get enough money to cover our expenses. As a young player you don’t earn money and you earn the right and I’m a young manager and I’m just earning the right so it’s not about money. It’s about us all signing from the same hymn sheet. 

“I’m driven. It’s just the way I am. I’ve seen nothing in this league that’s been better than what we do and we’ll go up to the next level and see what they’ve got to do but I won’t fear anyone.”

But VCD Athletic chairman Gary Rump has reassured Russell that he will back him, within reason, in the Ryman Premier League next season.

“All I can do as a club off the field is set our stall out and say to the manager we will support you,” he said.

“I’ve always done this. When I had Martin Ford here, when I had Paul Foley here, when I had Ricky Bennett here and now I’ve got Tony Russell here, I’ve always said I don’t care what it takes, whatever I have to do as chairman of this football club, get me promotion.

“I have to thank the Martin Ford’s, the Paul Foley’s and the Ricky Bennett’s and the players that have kept the continuity going at this football club and every one of those managers will all tell you that as a chairman of this football club I have supported, whatever they want, whatever players they want to bring in, whatever the budget maybe, I’ve said go and get them.

“I don’t care, within reason. We’ve had to cut out cloth accordingly. We have to be sensible. I’m a business person and I run a company and I can’t walk away from that where I’m focused on my business and when I come out of that and get into football I can’t be silly.

“We have to run a club responsibly and we have to run it like a business should be run. That’s my philosophy. We cut our cloth and if the manager comes to me and say this player or that player (is available), maybe to get us over that line, I’ve done that.

“Tony Russell done the right thing.  I’ve got to take my hat off to him.  When we knew Stuart Thurgood and Bertie Brayley were available, he had to bring in a bit of experience to settle the boys down for these important games.

“The timing of those two signings were crucial but they don’t come cheap these players, they’ve played at the highest level.

“Tony came to me and said we’ve got a young squad and we need to bring in some old heads before the transfer window closed on 31 March so I said go and do it.  If that’s what it takes to get us over the winning line and he did it and it goes us to where we are today.”

“I will continuously support that and the next level is going to be harder. We’re going into the unknown but whatever the manager, hopefully Tony will be apart of it next season and Razor and the squad.

“We’ve done our projections already from a business point of view. We looked at the Ryman Premier and what the average gates are and I’ve already considered what we might need to be doing well next season.

“I’m never in it to be just a part of it. I’m always in it, as a chairman, to win it.  Until we get going I won’t know what it’s going to take to make headway in the Ryman Premier but I will support, all the time the manager is here with the players, as long as I’m the chairman I will support him whatever it takes.

“Tony Russell is not going to the Ryman Premier to be an also ran like a midtable side.  He’s going to go in it to win it. That’s his philosophy. That’s what Tony Russell is all about and if I said to him I’m not going to support this and that then there’s no point in being here is there.”

Mr Rump thanked the many well-wishers that passed on the Crayford based club their best wishes for last weekend.

“There’s been so many phone calls and so many texts and emails of encouragement from clubs in the North and Premier and in the Conference who have been wishing me good luck and I just thought you know what we weren’t going to come second.

“There was so many people wishing us good luck. I just thought there was so much feeling and thought going into the club from my friends. My phone just filled up with text messages.

“From the final whistle the phone hadn’t stopped. Even Denise Richmond texted me. She was following the game on twitter. She just texted me to say congratulations.

“All the people don’t forget.  They love this club. When they come here they get well received. We try to do our best and that’s why clubs and people just do it.  They just want to see us do well.”

But the real heroes were Cheshunt, who held Witham Town to a draw, which sparked celebrations at Oakwood just seconds after substitute Brayley curled home goal number six at the end of the game.

“Cheshunt done us a massive turn,” admitted the Vickers chairman.

“We got to say a big thank you to them.  I saw the reports on the Ryman League website that said that they would give it a go.  They had nothing to play for and they had a big impact on who won this league and fair play to Cheshunt.”

Meanwhile, the club confirmed that they asked tenants Kent Football United to leave following the expiry of the Kent Invicta League club’s three year groundshare deal at Oakwood.

VCD Athletic were not happy with the content of the statement which was issued by Kent Football United yesterday morning.

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