We're not going to put ourselves under pressure as it's going to be a transition year, says newly-appointed Tunbridge Wells boss Keith Bird
NEWLY-APPOINTED Tunbridge Wells manager Keith Bird says he has to rebuild a squad on a reduced budget.
Bird, 47, who lives in Orpington, was named Martin Larkin’s successor last night after a meeting with chairman Clive Maynard and the board at Culverden Stadium.
Tunbridge Wells have appointed former Bromley reserve team and Cray Wanderers manager Keith Bird as Martin Larkin's successor
Bird has been out of the game since September 2014 when he left Ryman League Division One North side Cray Wanderers after a year of struggle at Hayes Lane.
Before that he was a youth team coach and reserve team manager at landlords Bromley.
“It’s been a nice break, I have to be honest, to recharge the batteries,” said Bird.
“The funny thing about this game, when you’re doing non-league football, you just have to wait for the right thing to come along. Opportunities are limited because most of us have a regular day job. There were things for me to look at in the Ryman North but travel wise it wouldn’t have worked with my business commitments.
“It’s just a case of being patient and wait for the right thing to come along.
“I’m delighted that I’ve been appointed at Tunbridge Wells. It’s a fantastic club and it’s very convenient for me from a location perspective.
“I’m really excited. The club’s got a lot of potential, has a great group of people running it. It’s a great set-up, great infrastructure and I’m re-energised and excited to go again.”
The club initially wanted to appoint former Redhill boss Mike Maher, but he didn’t accept the job and was appointed head coach to work alongside Paul Gross at league rivals Cray Valley instead.
“I’m not sure what happened there, I came in after all of that happened,” said Bird.
“I met with the chairman and the board on Wednesday evening. We had a chat initially on the phone and then I went in to meet the board on Wednesday evening and I was invited to go back on Thursday evening and I was offered the position in the car on the way home from that meeting, so I’m not sure what happened before, but I was delighted once it worked out.
Bird has pulled off a masterstroke by appointing club stalwart Jason Bourne as his assistant manager.
“It’s a great move and I’m delighted to appoint Jason as our assistant manager,” said Bird.
“One of the things that myself, the chairman and Jason were very keen to do was to have continuity in the club from where the previous manager left off and starting over for this season.
“Jason is an absolute legend at the club with over 400 appearances. There is not anybody who knows the players and the league better. Hopefully with my experience and Jason’s knowledge of that league and the squad it will be a great combination.
“Jason and I have clicked straight away, the chemistry is very good. We’ve been talking non-stop today on the phone, the day after the appointment and I’m really excited to have Jason on board.”
Brendon Cass (Erith & Belvedere), Paul Booth (Ashford United) and Jake Beecroft (Sittingbourne) have already left the club, but Bird revealed that more members of Larkin’s squad have departed Culverden Stadium.
Bird said: “It’s a bit of a rebuilding job to be honest with you. It’s been well publicised that a lot of players have already left before the appointment of a new manager was made, so sadly by the time I’ve come in a lot of players have already gone.
“I’ve spoken to the players that are still there on the phone today and exchanged messages with those that are away at the moment. I think they’re excited by the appointment.
“The players that are still there now gives us a great platform to build from.
“It will be a rebuild job. We will have to bring new players in. As it stands now there’s six or seven players’ of last season’s squad, so we will have to bring new players in.
“My first loyalty will be the players who have stayed from last season, they will be given a shirt to begin with and it’s down to them to keep or lose that shirt.”
Bird has revealed that he will be working with a lower budget than the one that was given to Larkin, which saw the club finish in the top five last season.
He said: “The board are very pragmatic. The budget has been reduced from last year for various reasons. We’re very keen to have a sustainable club and a club that’s here for the long term plan.
“The club is very well supported. It has fantastic fans that support the club so it has good sustainable ability and we wanted to make sure the budget doesn’t put the club under any necessary strain.
“Having said that it’s an average budget. It won’t be in the top end of the league in terms of budgets, but it’s an average budget for this level and therefore the expectations for the board this year is transition and we’ll consolidate and look to kick on again.
“As a manager I’m naturally ambitious and the senior members of the squad that I met with last night, they’ve got a fantastic winning mentality and there’s a winning mentality about the club.
“We’re not going to put ourselves under pressure as we know there’s rebuilding to do around the squad and it’s going to be a transition year.
“But as the club we’ve got a long-term plan that I’ve brought into that and I’m looking forward to being part of that long-term project.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead. I’m looking to do something special with Tunbridge Wells. It’s a club that’s got a huge amount of potential and that’s the decisive thing.”
Bourne took to Twitter to speak about his new role at his beloved Tunbridge Wells.
He said: “Really excited about new role at the club and building something special. We have great foundations and together we will succeed.”
Bird’s first game in charge of the club will be their opening pre-season friendly away to Kent Invicta League side Crockenhill on Saturday 11 July.
The Crocks entertain Sittingbourne at Wested Meadow tomorrow with Sittingbourne manager Nick Davis taking a team of trialists’ to the game, which will be Liam Kelly’s first game in charge of Crockenhill.
Visit Tunbridge Wells’ website: www.tunbridgewellsfc.com