East Kent College bosses celebrate being top of the class
The Ramsgate based club finished two points clear of Faversham Strike Force to win the Haart of Kent County League Division Two East with 49 points from 20 games.
The club clinched the treble by winning the Kent Junior Cup and the Les Leckie Eastern Section Cup.
“We have existed for just over a season now and have teams across the Kent County League, Thanet & District League, Thanet Sunday Football League and Deal & District League as well as the Bear Cubs at under 9s and under 11s,” said joint-manager Liam Morris, 29.
The former Ramsgate player added: “We also co-exist alongside the College’s sports programme. A number of our players attended the college last year, notably first team regulars Dean Jones and Ryan Sandles.”
Reflecting on the club’s inaugural campaign, Morris said: “We are over the moon and couldn’t have wished it any better!
“We started the season so strong and when we last spoke I think we were five or six games unbeaten. It was actually 25 games later than we picked up our first loss away to Larkfield, which was a shame.
“During that unbeaten run we obviously managed to win the Kent Junior Cup and Les Leckie Cup.
“For me the Kent Junior Cup Final was a particular highlight, not only for how we dramatically won it against Sutton Athletic with a last gasp winner but the whole occasion put on by the Kent FA at Maidstone United was fantastic.”
Co-manager, Luke Williams, 29, added: “Some will say the League win was a little controversial. Larkfield failed to turn up and play us on two occasions, so we were awarded three points that basically won us the League.
“However, reflecting back over the season we really did get what we deserved. We were the top side I believe.”
The former Margate player added: “It soon became clear that the League would be between a few teams – Faversham Strike Force were there throughout, Deal reserves started strong and APM reserves came back into it after having a brilliant 2014.
“Having only lost once against anyone in the top six, we picked up 6 points against Faversham Strike Force, four against APM, Lydd and Deal, it shows that we were strong and consistent.
“We really had to use a squad of players as in the League you lose players due to injury, holidays and work.
“We used five different goalkeepers which tells its own story. The only time we struggled in the League was when the fixtures came thick and fast at the end of the year and we had to keep playing fit and away from extra work or home commitments.
“This season has shown we have a great set of individual players but more importantly worked hard as a team, a good set-up as a club and the hunger and character to win.”
When asked whether they expected to be so successful in their first campaign, Williams replied, “With the players we were able to attract we always knew we were going to be competitive but without seeing any of the other teams play it is always hard to say any outcomes.
“It soon became clear that the League was competitive and any of the top six could beat each other.
“After Christmas you could see it was between two or three teams and that’s when we were able to start thinking about promotion and even the chance of winning it.”
Morris added: “We set out to be as competitive as we could be and I think the club’s director of football, Gary Beckett, would have been pleased if we achieved a mid-to-top table finish with decent cup runs – something that would get the College and club’s name out there a bit so to come away with what we have, we couldn’t be more delighted.”
The pair were asked their aspirations for next season in the higher division.
Morris said: “It is going to be tough, very tough. Our glimmer of hope is that after the League restructured last year quite a few of the teams went up to this League from the one we have just been promoted from and they have all held their own. Guru Nanak even managed to win it but we won’t be getting ahead of ourselves.
“Again, it is sort of the unknown for us like last season so we will aim to be nice and solid, not give much away and then look to play the football we know we can.”
Morris added: “We will be sitting down and putting together our retained list. All deserve to stay after what they achieved this season and then we’ll set about looking at players who can improve the squad.
“We will start by looking local once again as there is plenty of talent in the Thanet area to pick them.”
When asked about the long-term aspirations for the club, Morris said: “The main aim for the club is to keep growing, keep becoming a top community football club who are able to provide football to the local area, whatever the level.
“Obviously we would be delighted if we could get the club into the Kent County Premier Division but we will not get ahead of ourselves and will concentrate on getting a foothold in Division One first. Then we can start thinking about where we go from there with regards to grounds and facilities. That’s a way off yet so we must concentrate on doing the right things at this stage.
“We are on the look out to expand our Bear Club youth section and have also looked to promote from within with our Thanet & District team, EKC St Luke’s, hoping to be accepted into the County League also. This would probably mean a name change to East Kent College Reserves.
“Ian Clarke and Mickey Salisbury have had a great season, also winning their respective cup competitions.
“We have also just appointed a new management team of Paul Quinnell and Craig White for an under 21 team, which is exciting news.”
Morris thanked the people behind the scenes that have helped make it a successful campaign for the club.
“A quick thank you to Gary Beckett, East Kent College and the staff – they have been a great support and without them obviously the club would not exist.
“Also to Tim Hunt, who has been instrumental in not just how successful the senior team has been but for the operation and running of the club as a whole.
“We thank the Groundhoppers and bloggers who have come from as far as Hertfordshire to see a game of football.
“We will be commencing pre-season training during July and if anyone is interested in joining a team across the club then please keep an eye on our website for more details."
Visit East Kent College Football Club’s website: www.ekcfc.co.uk