Glebe chairman Rocky McMillan: We will not stand in Nico Lawrence's way of fulfilling his dream of turning pro
GLEBE chairman Rocky McMillan says he will not cut Harry Hudson’s playing budget after the clubs FA Vase exit last weekend.
Glebe have released Darryl Coleman after he was sent off inside the opening four minutes of their fifth round 3-2 exit at the hands of Hamworthy United.
However, Hudson’s men bounced back from that disappointment by beating promotion challengers Sheppey United 2-0 on Tuesday night, courtesy of goals from centre-half Nico Lawrence, 18, and striker Charlie Penny.
Chatham Town are top of the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division having collected 57 points from 21 games, Sheppey United remain in second-place on 53 points, while Chislehurst-based Glebe remain in third, seven points behind but with a game in hand.
Hudson has been praising Lawrence’s performances at centre-half in recent weeks and McMillan has revealed that Premier League clubs Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur and Championship outfit AFC Bournemouth are keen on the product that has come out of Hudson’s Kinetic Academy.
Tottenham Hotspur are also interested in Ramsgate striker Joshya Ajayi, who has scored 19 goals for Matt Longhurst's side in the Isthmian League South East Division.
“I think Nico’s a very exciting talent. He scored the first goal the other day. He’s got four clubs, including two Premiership clubs after him so it’s quite an exciting prospect for him,” said McMillan.
“He’s not under contract because he’s come through so quickly actually. It’s not really about the money with these lads. We’ve said to our lads if a Football League or a Premiership club comes in for them we won’t hold them back regardless of where we are in our league. We would never, never hold back a player who could fulfil this dream.
“Harry’s been contacted by a few clubs. Nico came through the Kinetic Academy and he’s just been learning his trade with us and in the last three months he’s just blossomed. I think he was absolutely outstanding against Sheppey on Tuesday. I think he bossed the defence, he scored a good goal and they never looked like getting past him.”
The appointment of former Croydon and Whyteleafe manager Hudson has been a good fit for Glebe as running the Kinetic Academy has brought talented footballers to Foxbury Avenue to play part-time in the ninth-tier of English football.
Glebe has seen a conveyor belt of talent being snapped up by Premier League clubs in recent years, the most famous being Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe.
“We’ve got some very, very good lads coming through. I think they just see the coaching and the set-up down here as something that they want to be involved in,” added Glebe founder McMillan.
“They know the top pro clubs call me week-in-week-out and we always keep our eyes out for top lads and I recommend them to clubs and we don’t hold people back. Some people say they are nicked by a pro club but we just look at it as a fantastic progression for the individual.
“If we can fulfil someone’s dream in our national game then that’s fantastic.”
Back to Glebe’s first-team affairs, McMillan certainly hasn’t thrown in the towel when it comes to winning promotion from the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division into the Isthmian League for the very first time.
The top side in the divison are automatically promoted and 11 of the 16 second-placed finishers are also promoted based on points-per-game, while five second-placed sides have to play-off against a relegation-threatened side from the level above, a one-off game played away from home.
“Statistically Chatham and Sheppey (are favourites for promotion) if you purely take the stats – but we’ve proven on our day that we’re as good as anyone in this league,” said McMillan, whose club have a 100% home league record in nine games.
“We just have to learn that we have to be up for every single game, especially when we’re away on a Tuesday night and not just the massive games. That seems to be where we dropped some points. We dropped three points at Welling Town and two at Punjab.
“I think it’s just mental toughening, especially the second part of the league, they think the top three will be prime scalps and we have to be up for every single one of our last 18 games.
“If we go on a good run for our last 18 games, we’ll get promotion. I’m not even thinking about Chatham and Sheppey.
“Success for Glebe in many ways is where we are. We’ve never finished in the top-eight so to be third is the highest we’ve ever been and it is a continued progression for the club but obviously being so close to the promotion race, promotion would be absolutely fantastic.
“Harry’s done a fantastic job this year. We will be placed at the end of the season where we deserved to be placed. If we’re good enough, we’ll go up. If we’re not then we’ll brush ourselves down and we’ll be back again next year but at the moment our next game is the most important game.
“After getting knocked out of the FA Vase last week the league is absolutely number one, number two and number three priority.”
McMillan revealed that he will continue to back his manager financially for the rest of the season, over concerns that Hudson’s budget will be reduced after their FA Vase exit.
He said: “There’s no implications in terms of finances. The club over the last seven years has been sound on a very strict monetary fund. Just because we’re out of the Vase, yes it cost us thousands of pounds going out, it doesn’t affect us one little bit. While we’re in a strong run in the league, then the status quo remains.
“It’s going to be an interesting one at Step Five. It’s just a shame that all three club’s can’t go up as all three clubs are good enough for Step Four, are well-equipped for Step Four football.”
Hudson takes his side to fifth-placed Deal Town tomorrow (15:00) to contest a Kent Senior Trophy Quarter-Final tie.