Sunday 19th September 2004
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Blade decides to stay following player exodus

PAUL BLADE has revealed he came close to quitting as manager of Go Travel Kent League side Thamesmead Town after losing fourteen players this season, writes Stephen McCartney.

However, following talks with his chairman and backroom staff, he decided to carry on with the work he has put into the club - and to make sure they secure promotion at the end of this season.

Explaining why he has lost so many players this season, he said: "One of the factors is we didn't go up last season and obviously we've lost our best players to a higher level of football, which is part of the game and you have to accept that."

Striker Michael Power, defender Tony Russell and goalkeeper Steve Northwood are players that have decided to test themselves at a higher level of football, joining Ryman League Division One newcomers Cray Wanderers - who clinched the promotion spot from the Go Travel Kent League last season.

Speaking about the others, Blade added: "A couple have left as in their mind they knew they wouldn't get into the side this season.

"Some players, however, that did leave, I find unacceptable the reasons they gave me.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but no-one is bigger than the club itself and you have to move on.”

But a meeting with the people very close to the manager persuaded him to stay at the club and continue the hard work he is putting in at Bayliss Avenue.

“I sat down with the rest of my management team and the chairman and discussed what has gone on within the club and we discussed my position as well, but we just felt we have gone too far to let it get to us.” Blade revealed.

"It would have been easier to walk away, but anyone who knows me, knows I am not like that.

“We’ve put in a lot of hard work in two years and all the hard work put in during that time I wasn’t going to throw it away with regards to players leaving.  It’s back to the drawing board and it’s time to start again.”

Blade has been busy in recent weeks recruiting players and replacing the ones that have defected to other clubs.

Whilst losing three players to Cray, a trio have moved in the opposite direction. Goalkeeper Grant Hall, defender John Mayall and midfielder Adam Heaslewood, have, at least make the current transition at the club less painful.

But Bayliss Avenue was again buzzing on Saturday when goals from Heaslewood and Dean Burns – who scored the only goal of the game as ‘Mead defeated Eastbourne United in the last round – defeated Ryman League Premier Division side Worthing 2-1 in the FA Cup First Qualifying Round.

Blade, however, admitted their opponents felt all they had to do was to turn up on the day, expecting Thamesmead Town to roll over and die.

Blade said: “It was a great result for the club.  We were definitely the under dogs with nothing to lose and I think Worthing went into the game with a mentality that they were playing a side two leagues below them and there would only be one winner.

“I think this is the downfall for the bigger teams.

“Worthing have got a few ex-pros, a massive wage bill, are a bigger club with a bigger stadium and I think these clubs can under estimated clubs like ours.”

But the character shown by his team was the pleasing aspect for the manager.

“Apart from that we’ve got 5 new signings in the last 2-3 weeks and what’s gone on in the club with players leaving the club, to get into the next round is a major achievement for the players and the club as well.”

The club have banked a total of £3,250 from their FA Cup exploits already, and are in the hat for the second qualifying round draw, which takes place on Monday morning, and if successful they will bank a further £3,750 – money that is vital to club’s at this level of football.

But a draw against AFC Wimbledon will clearly balance the books for the remainder of the season – but I guess every non-league football club is praying their name is paired with the Dons in the next round.

2,103 fans watched their 1-0 victory at Ryman League Premier Division side Dover Athletic in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Blade said: “The main aim is for the club to get out of the Kent League and play at a higher level, so hopefully we won’t lose our best players to higher level clubs.

“The last month has been a major set-back but every week seems to get better and better and we are striving to achieve success.”