Cray Valley appoint Kevin Watson: Of course, I have asked questions regarding the situation and am satisfied with the answers I have been given

Monday 21st August 2017

CRAY VALLEY appointed Kevin Watson as their new manager this morning after controversially sacking James Collins on Friday morning.

Collins, 34, guided the Eltham-based club to a club personal best finish of fourth-place in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division last season, as well as winning the London Senior Cup (Sponsored by Coventry Scaffolding), the first club at their level ever to do so, after losing 2-1 to Ashford United in the Kent Reliance Senior Trophy Final.

Collins had a 100% record this season after beating Abbey Rangers 3-1 in The FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round on the opening day of the season, before collecting six points after beating Bearsted 3-1 at Honey Lane, before beating much-fancied side Sevenoaks Town 2-1 at Middle Park Avenue last Tuesday.

It was a shock, therefore, when Collins confirmed that he was sacked by the club last Friday morning, despite sitting in third-place in the table after a couple of games.

Collins was told by a money-man at the club who to select, who to sign and he refused. He was, after all, the club’s manager.

Collins issued his statement this evening after Watson, 36, answered the call from the club to manage the club and he faces a fight to keep the club’s players at the club, notably highly-rated seven-goal striker Ben Francis.

Tommy Osborne, the club’s reserve team manager, took charge of the club’s FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round tie at Erith & Belvedere yesterday, and The Millers showed character to win that game 4-1 at Park View Road.

“For the record, myself and James get on well and there will be no animosity between us,” said Watson, who left then Isthmian League Division One South side Chatham Town in September 2015.

“When I left Chatham, he was my recommended candidate for the job and I expressed that to the Chatham board.

“When Paul Gross left Cray Valley, I interviewed for the job. I think James was the right appointment at the time and we spoke following his appointment. I wished him well and offered to help him out with any players if he needed, we have spoken several times since.

“I would not say that I have been desperate to get back into management and have not touted myself around, because very few clubs would appeal to me. I would go so far as saying, other than the Cray Valley job, there would have been one other vacancy that I would have been interested in if it had come up.

“Since leaving Chatham, I have remained in the game by helping players find clubs and vice versa. At the beginning of last season I was doing some opposition scouting for Weston-super-Mare and so far this season I have done similar for Folkestone as the manager’s of both those clubs I know very well.

“But I have missed the impact that you can have by being in the managers hot seat.

“I went to help Mike Flanagan at Brentwood for a short period after leaving Chatham which was a good experience but I quickly learnt that assisting a manager was not for me and despite some offers of similar roles, I declined.

“With regards to being appointed manager of Cray Valley, I spoke to the club after the news broke on Friday. They explained that they need to prepare for the important game on Sunday but following that they would make arrangements to speak to me and any other credible candidates.

“I then phoned James Collins to have a chat and explained to him that I will be speaking to the club about the vacancy. Whilst he was understandably disappointed about his news, he expressed that he would be glad to see me back managing somewhere, which was a nice gesture. 

“I went to watch the FA Cup match on Sunday, as you would expect from any possible candidate for the position.

“I spoke to the board this morning and was informed this afternoon that the club would like to offer me the role of first team manager. I accepted the offer.

“In the short-term I will have Tommy Osborne assisting with first team affairs. I have known Tommy for some time and he has done a great job with the Suburban League team. I say 'short term' as Tommy has just taken on a new role at work and feels that he may struggle to balance the commitment of first team football.

“I appreciate there has been some negativity surrounding James’s departure as is often the case when clubs and managers part company.

“The success last year and so far this year magnitudes the 'raised eyebrow', but I would not expect this negativity to be directed towards me.

“To a certain extent, what has gone on is none of my business and I do not wish to comment. Of course, I have asked questions regarding the situation and am satisfied with the answers I have been given. If I hadn't taken the job, someone would have.

“My immediate focus is on trying to keep the momentum of success on the pitch going.

“I will meet with all the players as a collective on Wednesday and express my intentions going forward. I will then try to meet with them individually over the next week and address any personal concerns they have prior to the important league fixture against Glebe on Monday.

“I appreciate that the players will feel an allegiance to James and loyalty is certainly a trait that I look for in a player. I pride my own management on a strong bond with players. But I would be disappointed if there was a mass exodus of players, without them experiencing working with me first.

“As a team collectively they have had a tremendous start to the season and clearly have a strong ethic and I would not want to break that up.

“Whilst this is in many respects a different challenge to what I faced in my previous managerial post, it is one that I will embrace.”

A Cray Valley statement said: “After several expressions of interest from within the existing SCEFL management community and beyond, Cray Valley (PM) FC can now confirm the appointment of Kevin Watson as first team manager with immediate effect.

“Following the difficult decision taken on Friday, the club felt it was important to act as quickly as possible and Kevin’s approach, undoubted experience at our level and beyond and his availability to take on the role at short notice were all the decisive factors in his appointment.

“We look forward to working with Kevin to build on our already solid start to the season.”

It will be interesting to hear the club’s views on one of their money men telling Collins who he should pick on a matchday - and sacking a highly-respected young manager who will come back stronger from this bad treatment.