Jay Saunders leaves Margate to become Tonbridge Angels' full-time manager while Andy Drury departs Whitstable Town to take over at Hartsdown Park
TONBRIDGE ANGELS have appointed Jay Saunders as their full-time manager.
The 43-year-old has departed Isthmian League Premier Division club Margate to take charge of the National League South outfit with immediate effect.
“Jay comes to the Angels with a wealth of knowledge and experience regarding non-league football particularly within the south-east area and at the highest levels of the pyramid right up to and including the National League,” said a Tonbridge Angels’ statement.
“He will be the clubs first full-time manager in modern times which will allow him to immediate start assessing the requirements for a first-team squad that will be in a position to put in a strong challenge in the forthcoming National League South campaign.
“He will start to asses the make-up of the existing squad and discuss with players their thoughts and wishes so that he can arrive at a retained list and at the same time plan for new arrivals.
“Jay very much embraces the community and family culture at the club and is keen to be involved in the youth side of the Angels which he sees as a vital element in the progression of players at Longmead.
“His success in management is proven at these levels taking Maidstone United from the Isthmian South to the National League in just four seasons.
“But it is not only this landmark achievement for which he is recognised. Something of a club legend in his playing days at Margate he made 373 appearances scoring half century of goals mainly from defensive positions and gained five caps for the England semi-professional side.
“Always popular and well-respected with fans and players alike wherever his career has taken him, Jay displays a strong work ethic which has translated into his successes both on the pitch and in the dug-out.”
Tonbridge Angels chairman Dave Netherstreet said: “We are very pleased to be able to make this announcement. We believe that Jay’s experience and achievements are what we need to turn this club into the principal footballing centre in West Kent both at first-team level and as a main sporting hub within the community.
“I should add that there was a very strong field of five candidates, three of which directors spoke to at some length but Jay was the standout. I welcome him to our club.”
Tonbridge Angels parted company with Steve McKimm on Tuesday 3 May and Academy manager and vice-captain Tom Parkinson took charge of their final day game at St Albans City.
McKimm spent eight years at Longmead Stadium and their 3-2 win at St Albans City on Saturday ensured the Angels finished in sixteenth-place in the table with 45 points from 40 games, nine points clear of basement side Billericay Town, who were the only side to suffer the drop.
Margate confirmed that they were approached by Tonbridge Angels to speak to Saunders at the back end of last week.
Saunders was appointed as Margate’s caretaker-manager in February 2019 after the departure of Steve Brown, before taking on the role permanently in May 2019.
Saunders’ first two seasons in charge were cut short due to the Covid-19 health pandemic before securing an eighth-place finish in the Isthmian League Premier Division during the 2021-22 season.
The club reached the League Cup Final but suffered a 4-0 defeat at the hands of league rivals Horsham on 13 April, which was the club’s first League Cup final in 24 years.
In a statement on Margate’s website, Saunders said: “It has been a really tough decision to leave but after losing two seasons through Covid, this was an opportunity to move up a level that I couldn’t refuse.
“Everyone knows what I think of Margate. I really enjoyed my playing days there and then my time managing the club and I leave with a heavy heart.
“I didn’t know Ricky Owen when I joined but I have had a brilliant working relationship with him every day talking on the phone and just wanted to say that the club has been brilliant to me.
“Finally, I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ to the fans who have supported me. I will be forever grateful for their support and I hope they continue to get behind the club like they did so brilliantly this season.”
Margate chairman Ricky Owen added: “I have a huge amount of respect for what Jay has done for this football club, not just over these past three years as manager but also as a player before that.
“He will be forever a huge part of this club and will always be welcome back at Hartsdown Park.
“I have had a brilliant working relationship with Jay and have thoroughly enjoyed working with him over the past three seasons."
Margate finished their 42-game campaign with 65 points on the board, missing out on the play-offs by 11 points.
Upon Saunders' departure, the club stated that it "wishes to reassure fans that it is working tirelessly to appoint a successor to Jay and will be working day and night to ensure the best candidate is appointed."
The search for Saunders' replacement didn't last long, however, with the news that Andy Drury has departed relegated side Whitstable Town to take charge at Hartsdown Park.
The Margate chairman added: “We were really impressed by Andy and his vision for the squad moving forward.
“He has a wealth of knowledge in both the professional and non-league game and he is hungry to succeed.”
Drury, 38, was in charge of seven games at Whitstable Town but failed to prevent the club finishing at the foot of the Isthmian League South East Division table.
Lloyd Blackman, Ben Harding, Keith McMahon and Drury were managers of the club during the course of the season, as 30 points were collected from 38 league games.
Drury won two, drew one and lost four of his games in brief charge of Whitstable Town, who will return to the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division alongside fellow relegated side Phoenix Sports.
A Whitstable Town statement said: "The club received an approach to speak to Andrew Drury this evening.
"We want to thank Andy for all his hard work during his short spell at the club.
"It's a great opportunity which we understand Andy couldn't refuse. We wish Andy all the best for the future.
"The club will work tirelessly to appoint a successor to rebuild after a difficult season and work hard to ensure the best candidate is selected."
To apply for the role email firstname.lastname@example.org.