Saturday 22nd May 2004

New Herne Bay boss Lillis wants to wake up "sleeping giant"

Five experienced players could be on their way to Winch's Field

NEW Herne Bay manager Jason Lillis revealed he is currently in discussions with up to five players as he bids to improve the playing fortunes at Winch's Field, writes Stephen McCartney.

The thirty-five-year-old, has appointed close friend Paul Haylock as his assistant, as the double act aim to improve on last season's disappointing tenth placed finish in the Go Travel Kent League Premier Division.

The Medway based teacher, admitted Herne Bay were a "sleeping giant" and he is looking for progress rather than success, for the time being, at least.

Lillis admitted: "The reason why I applied was the club wants to go forward and Herne Bay are a sleeping giant.  The prospects are there for me to take the club forward to where it wants to be."

Finishing thirty points behind Kent League champions Cray Wanderers is possible hard to stomach for the well supported outfit, having basked in glory when, under current Dartford boss Tommy Sampson, the Winch's Field outfit were the kings of Kent League football.

The new man in charge hinted he may improve the team's back line having leaked  49 goals in 32 matches in the last campaign.  He wants his team to be mean at the back and looks to rivals VCD Athletic, who conceeded only 29 goals, Maidstone United (30), champions Cray Wanderers (35) and Thamesmead Town (38).

He added: "Obviously the way to improve is to stop letting in goals.  Cray and VCD didn't conceed too many goals so our objective will be the same."

Lillis, however, stated he will be bringing in experienced players, although he didn't name names until the paperwork was signed, as he aims to work the club's current crop of quality players.

Lillis said: "Herne Bay are a young side with good quality players who need coaching and confidence - in a year's time we will get stronger."

He did, however, admit he wasn't going for an all out assault to land silverware in his first season, but stated he is looking for improvement and progress.

"We are trying to progress on our tenth place.  However, there are no guarantees in football.  I will never say we will win the league or cups - whoever does that puts themselves under pressure.

"If we progress in the league and cups then it's a bonus.  I am looking for progression and see what we get out of the players.  There will be experienced players coming into the club to help them along." said the new boss.

His assistant, Paul Haylock, will be bringing in a vast amount of experience and knowledge of the game, having played over 500 games for Norwich City.

Speaking about his number two, Lillis added: "Paul is experienced with 500 league games at Norwich City and he was a professional player all his life. His knowledge, coaching and personality is second to none - and he is a nice guy!"

The pair first met way back in 1985 when they were both at Gillingham together and have remained friends ever since. 

Lillis, is no stranger to Kent football, having started his career with Gillingham, before Keith Peacock, now assistant to Alan Curbishley at Premiership Charlton Athletic, took him under his wing at Queen's Park Rangers in the reserve team, when the Loftus Road outfit were managed by Trevor Francis.

A spell in Finland with HJK followed before he returned to Kent with Maidstone United when the Stones were a Football League club.  Lillis joined Sittingbourne as a professional when Maidstone were forced to fold and leave the league, when the Brickies were backed by big finances.

Walsall, Cambridge United and Carlisle United were his next ports of call before he was forced into the non-league game due to injury. 

He mainly stayed in Kent and played for Dover Athletic, Ashford Town, Chatham Town, Lordswood and Sussex outfit Horsham.

To be interviewed by Stephen McCartney, telephone 07979 418 360

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