Frustrated Bearsted boss Kevin Stevens reveals he's being priced out of the transfer market while Punjab United boss Chipie Sian warns Faversham Town and their £400,000 gamble that SCEFL Premier is a tough league to get out of

Sunday 07th January 2024

BEARSTED manager Kevin Stevens says he is being priced out of the non-contract ninth-tier transfer market.

The club officially joined the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division promotion race after beating Punjab United 4-1 at Honey Lane yesterday.

The Bears have climbed up to seventh-place in the table with 37 points from their 21 games and with a play-off system in place from this season, 10 clubs can be serious contenders of grabbing a ticket for the end-of-season play-off lottery.

Stevens handed centre-half Casey Nolan-Samuels his debut yesterday, having signed him from Isthmian League South East Division side Sittingbourne, while Jack Palmy came off the bench to make his debut, having arrived from league rivals Whitstable Town, while Jacob Kalonda has arrived from Sutton Athletic and has yet made his debut.

Chislehurst-based outfit Glebe returned to the summit after beating Hollands & Blair 3-0 at Foxbury Avenue, while Faversham Town were held to a 2-2 home draw by fourteenth-placed Tunbridge Wells.

The Lilywhites parted company with manager Sammy Moore last week and made centre-half Matthew Newman caretaker manager, while applications for the managerial vacancy at Salters Lane closed on Friday.

Erith & Belvedere claimed the league title by one point last season – with a playing budget of £2,500 per week.  Faversham Town’s playing budget this season is an eye-watering £10,000 per week!

Glebe returned to the summit with 45 points on the board from their 23 (of 40) league games.

The play-off spots are held by Faversham Town (44 points from 23 games), Corinthian (42 points from 20 games), Deal Town (42 points from 19 games) and Erith Town (39 points from 22 games).

These other clubs also have intensions of grabbing a play-off place come the end of the season.

Whitstable Town (39 points from 23 games), Bearsted (37 points from 21 games), Snodland Town (35 points from 19 games), Punjab United (35 points from 21 games), Fisher (31 points from 21 games) and Lydd Town (30 points from 17 games).

When the Lilywhites are paying players over £1,000 per week, Stevens revealed he is struggling to sign players for his club as part-time players in the ninth-tier are demanding crazy money.

“We’ve found out this week. I said to the coaches that we need to strengthen and we’ve been talking to people and honestly, the money some players ask in this league now and you all know who they are and they’re a £60 player asking for £120 and we can’t do that as a club,” revealed Stevens.

“It is frustrating. We’ve spoken to a lot of people this week and most of them are priced way out of our range, which actually they’re ok players but they shouldn’t be getting what they’re getting.”

Corinthian manager Michael Golding, who operates without a playing budget, which is a long-standing policy of the Longfield based outfit, said recently that players in the division were getting around £40 per week when the club last played in the division pre the covid health pandemic – but that has changed since now promoted pair Chatham Town, Sheppey United and now Faversham Town are splashing the cash.

“You’ve got players who go to those teams and I’ve spoken to a few over the years and you try to get them and you can’t compete with that,” added Stevens, a retired fireman.

“One of the flip side of that, I’m lucky that Elyon Marshall-Katung, my head coach, knows a lot of players and he’s good friends with a lot of players, so we’ve got one or two literally through his friendship, so that’s helped us big time and some good players as well.

“Danny Wakeling coming in, we brought Jacob Kalonda in last week and he's going to be a really, really good addition.

“If’s difficult, so you’ve got to work a bit harder to get the right players.”

Faversham Town were naïve to think that spending £400,000 would get them out of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division at the first attempt.

“I’m not sure about the money because it’s scary what some players are on and what other clubs are paying,” added Chipie Sian, Punjab United’s manager and chairman.

“People have got to put the money in because the play-off’s are there and I understand it but Punjab, we’ve got our budget, we set our budget and that’s what we’ve got to stick to because we’re not a big club. We don’t have 400-500 (fans attending our home games) every week.

“We’re a good club. We’ve got good local support. We’ve gone from 55 people from four years ago to having 150 every week.  Slowly, slowly we’re building something, which is very nice to watch and we’re getting there.

“We done a good thing last year winning the Kent Senior Trophy. A top 10 finish was always the aim.  This year we said we want to get out of this moment that Punjab are just a bottom 10 side – no we’re not! We’re right up there this year!

“I understand why club’s are throwing in the money and you can see what happened at Faversham – the pressure mounts every week because if you don’t win people are saying ‘why aren’t you winning?’

“I feel sorry for Sam, he’s alright, he’s done really well. I’ve met him a few times, he’s a good guy but I think people in the League above and the League above that, when they come to this League they think it’s not tough - and it’s tough!

“It’s the hardest league to get out of and I think teams should show some respect for this division. This division is tough.  Every game, top or bottom, you’re in a fight and I believe this is one of the toughest divisions yet this season. It’s probably been the toughest we’ve ever seen because everyone comes to you and you see players and you think they’ve improved and we’ve improved, so just think how many teams are fighting out for the top five.

“Lydd have still got a few games in hand, they’ve done well.  Look at that, when have you seen that in this division? They’re all fighting for those play-off places.

“It’s a brilliant league, I absolutely love this league and I love competing with other managers and other teams."

Sian, meanwhile, was asked whether he is looking to bring in fresh faces into the Gravesend-based outfit.

“No I’m happy with what we’ve got,” said Sian, who has recently released Michael Aziya and De Niro Pinto has joined tenth-tier side Bridon Ropes on loan.

“I’m just waiting for Jordan Campbell really to come back and I think my 16 man squad is done.

“I think 16 is enough and we’ve got a couple of youngsters in there.”