Published: 15:02, 30 April 2019
| Updated: 15:33, 30 April 2019
Canterbury City's players have issued a statement calling for sacked manager Ben Smith to be re-instated.
Smith left the Southern Counties East League club on Sunday after getting into trouble over comments he made in a newspaper article.
In the piece, published in last Thursday’s Kentish Gazette, Smith referred to K Sports as a ‘decent pub side’ after they had beaten City 2-1.
He also implied that City’s promotion ambitions next season might be improved if Cray Valley went up this campaign.
The teams were due to meet on Saturday in a game which Cray eventually won 2-0 to take the title.
Concerns about Smith's comments were raised by the SCEFL on Friday, leading to him leaving his job on Sunday morning.
Canterbury's players say they are completely behind their former boss and claim they have been misled by the club.
They also say they were prepared to play the final game of the season at Bearsted on Tuesday, only to find out the fixture had been cancelled via the club's Twitter.
The statement, sent on behalf of the squad, said: "We as players of Canterbury City FC feel it was important to release a statement in regards to the recent sacking of our first team manager, Ben Smith, and the postponement of tonight’s game against Bearsted FC.
"We were shocked to hear of the sacking of our manager on Sunday morning, especially after the success of the club in the FA Vase this year, as well as the huge steps taken off the field to improve the status of our club, owed largely to the work Ben Smith has done.
"The rumours surrounding the sacking posed lots of questions being asked by us as players. An email was sent to the chairman of our club on behalf of all the playing squad asking for the reasons for his sacking.
"We also asked the club to reconsider the sacking as Ben has the full backing of every member of the squad, coaching staff and our supporters.
"We also reiterated that every one of us as players and coaches were fully committed to gaining a positive result against Cray Valley and giving a positive account of ourselves.
"Which we believe we did and were unlucky not to gain a result on the day. Had we fielded a weakened team and got beat easily we could have fully understood the club questioning Ben, and us as a squad.
The response we received was: "Whilst noting your comments, as a Club we have had to offer the SCEFL our unreserved apologies for the article that appeared in last week’s KM Gazette following complaints by two member clubs and concerns being raised by the SCEFL themselves particularly given the game on Saturday was the crucial league title decider.
"Whilst as a Club we acknowledge Ben’s achievements this season nothing can in anyway bring into doubt the integrity of CCFC but more importantly the SCEFL, a league which is now clearly one of the strongest in the country and something we take pride in being part of. I expect a sanction will be imposed on us as a club but would hope that the decisive steps taken this weekend are considered mitigation."
"The statement released by the SCEFL (today) confirmed they had received no complaint from any clubs but did themselves send an email expressing their concerns on Friday night.
"Whilst we understand Ben’s comments may have been untimely and inappropriate I think everyone in football can see from the line up named by Ben on Saturday against Cray Valley, and for those that were there to witness the game, can tell we had every intention of winning that game of football and were perhaps a little unlucky not to gain a positive result.
"Although the last couple of days have been absolute chaos, we as a team and as semi professional footballers owed it to the SCEFL, Bearsted FC, Ben Smith and the coaching staff, and all of our supporters to fulfil the last game of the season and give a good account of ourselves amidst this absolute mess.
"We had made our own arrangements and were in the middle of discussing who would pick up the kit and balls for tonight’s game when we received the news (via CCFC official Twitter) that tonight’s game had been cancelled.
"We have not received one phone call, text message or email from the Chairman or the Vice Chairman, in regards to the current state of the club, the plans to fulfil our remaining fixture or even to meet with the current playing to squad to discuss how we move forward.
"Just to reiterate, we were all fully committed to fulfilling tonight’s fixture against Bearsted and feel the club cancelling this fixture has now bought our reputation in to dispute as players.
"We are so united as a group of players and staff and feel we still could be successful as a group for Canterbury City FC but the only way to move forward would be for Ben and his team to be reinstated as manager of this football club."