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Ashford United manager Kevin Watson knows better than to make predictions in a league as competitive as Isthmian South East

Ashford boss Kevin Watson isn’t about to make any predictions for the new Isthmian South East season.

Any number of sides will fancy their chances in what is one of the most competitive divisions in non-league football.

Ashford United manager Kevin Watson. Picture: Ian Scammell
Ashford United manager Kevin Watson. Picture: Ian Scammell

Watson, who succeeded Tommy Warrilow this summer, has worked in the league previously with Cray Valley and knows how tough it is.

“It’s a really high standard,” he said.

“You always get people who try and predict things but I don’t think you can in that league.

“There’s so many teams with such depth of quality and even early on in the season, you have some teams who are up the top and they fall away a little bit.

“You look at some teams and their signings and make naive assumptions that they’ll be strong this season.

“There was one last season, it looked like they were really going for it, and they struggled for the majority.

“We just control what’s in our own hands and focus on trying to get our own team together and get a really good collective understanding of what’s expected and how to implement it.”

Ashford started pre-seaon with a 4-0 win at Whitstable on Tuesday night and visit Watson’s old club Chatham tomorrow (1pm).

The Nuts & Bolts have recruited well, adding the likes of Ian Draycott and Alex Akrofi, and may not be finished just yet in the transfer market.

Ashford United are gearing up for the new Isthmian South East season. Picture: Ian Scammell
Ashford United are gearing up for the new Isthmian South East season. Picture: Ian Scammell

Watson said: “We’re OK on numbers. I wouldn’t dismiss one or two more but they would have to be the right fit.

“We’re quite specific about what we’d want and the sort of personalities we want because one thing I am quite confident on is I think we’ve got a really good bunch of people.

“It’s pleasing to see the dynamic, even though we’ve only had a couple of sessions.

“There’s a mutual respect for each other, so we’re quite happy with that.”

Watson’s commitment to meeting players face-to-face may have been time-consuming but it’s proved well worth it, both in terms of who he’s retained and those he’s brought to the club since taking charge at Homelands.

“We’re piecing it together,” he said.

“We’ve got a way we want to play and we can start to implement what we want from the squad when we’re playing the friendlies.

“The main thing was to get the right people in the right seats on the bus, so to speak, and that’s what we’ve worked hard at doing.

“We’re very pleased with the success rate at doing that.

“We’ve approached a number of players that were already there, and some new additions, and we’ve been pleased how that’s gone.

“We’ve put a lot into it. We go and meet every player in person.

“I don’t like to do things just over the phone. I don’t think it’s very personable or reflects the way we work.

“Those conversations were very positive and we’re pleased with where we are at this moment in time.

“It does take a lot of time because I suppose, as a player, they might meet a manager, or maybe a couple of managers, but as a management team you dedicate that time towards meeting lots of players.

Summer signing Ian Draycott at pre-season training. Picture: Ian Scammell
Summer signing Ian Draycott at pre-season training. Picture: Ian Scammell

“Lots of meetings took place but the success rate of those meetings was good.

“I think the conversations were as much about them letting us know their aspirations and what they’ve experienced in the past.

“Yes, it’s about managing the player but it’s as much about managing the person.”

Striker Vance Bola committed his future to Ashford at the end of last week.

He suffered a knee injury within half an hour of joining the Nuts & Bolts last season, only making his debut at the end of the campaign.

“Vance is a good lad,” said Watson.

“When he first went to Ashford he didn’t feature because he got an injury very early on and didn’t play until the end of the season.

“I think there’s an element in his mind that the club haven’t seen the best of him for a sustained period but now hopefully they will.

“He’s got some quality, as have a lot of the players we’ve signed.”

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