Published: 00:00, 30 April 2019
| Updated: 15:35, 30 April 2019
Ben Smith admits he feels 'let down' after being sacked as manager of Canterbury City Football Club.
The club announced his dismissal on social media on Sunday, alluding to comments made in a recent Kentish Gazette interview as the reason.
Smith had referred to K Sports as 'a decent pub side' as well as considering how promotion for Cray Valley may boost City's chances of going up in 2019/2020 ahead of Saturday's clash between the sides.
His exit comes on the back of him leading City to within touching distance of a visit to Wembley as they reached the FA Vase semi-final against Cray, where they were beaten 2-1 on aggregate.
Smith said: "I'm extremely disappointed, I think disappointed is a complete understatement really. I feel let down, I feel like the opportunity to take the side and squad I've been building over the last year forward has been taken away from me over something that is so trivial.
"I've had people mentioning that the club's integrity has been called into question, the fact we put out the side we did (on Saturday) and with the performance levels and effort levels of the players on the day, nobody can question our integrity. To be honest, nobody can question my integrity.
"If anybody has been to a Canterbury City game, they'll see the passion I have to win games of football and the passion I've always had to win for Canterbury City and the supporters there.
"It's quite hurtful really to have people question that, especially people that know me, namely the two directors. It hurts a lot more the fact they've not supported me and backed me on this situation, they could quite clearly and quite easily have done that. I'm don't want to slag them off, maybe some things will come out in the future once this settles down.
"At the end of the day, I can certainly hold my head high for what I've done at the football club. When we talk about the reputation of the club, when I joined not many people thought it was a football club from outside. If anybody's had a big contribution to the reputation and credibility of Canterbury City, without blowing my own trumpet, it's myself, my management team and the players I've had in that time.
"The club looks like a football club now, whereas it didn't before. That's not because of what has gone on behind the scenes, for sure."
Smith was informed of the decision by chairman Tim Clark, who told the Kentish Gazette there had been complaints from unnamed teams in the Southern Counties East Football League.
He explained: "We had the presentation on Saturday after the game, the directors were absent from that. That evening I tried to contact one of them to see if something had happened as to why they wouldn't be at the first team and disability team presentation because that's quite strange, especially after the remarkable season we've had.
"I had no answer from the chairman, he then rang me back the next day, apologised for missing my call and then said we had to part ways because the decision was completely out of their hands.
"I was completely shocked, three weeks before this one of the directors, who was concerned I might have been interested in one of the local Ryman jobs, had said to me they wanted me to stay and that if I wanted a contract with the club they would get me a contract sorted. I said there was no need for that as we're all in it for the same reason.
"I've never been paid by the club and I'm not interested in being paid by the club so I didn't see any need in me having to take a contract, at the end of the day I trusted them and at that stage I believed they trusted me. For this to come this way, it's not an excuse to be sacking a manager.
"It's very difficult to take, we've put plans in place for next season. Some of the players that were coming in next season would have shocked a lot of people and now I'm fielding calls from them over the last 24 hours asking 'What's going on? Are we still coming in?', I'm not going to see the culmination of a lot of hard work to get the squad to where it was going to go.
"I'll never know now whether that would be good enough to take us up.
"I said to the players on Saturday that if we didn't start the next season well and get rid of the areas that are costing us points in the league then I would be the first person to walk away and take up a different role within the club, I was trying to really motivate them to do everything they can in the off-season to make sure they came back in pre-season ready to go and realise what a big opportunity we have as a football club to be successful next season. That's the hardest thing to be honest."
Smith, who was set for his 200th game at the club against Bearsted on Tuesday, has since received a wave of positive messages from players and fans in light of his impact at City over the past four years.
He added: "The support I've had from the players has been amazing really, because managers get sacked a lot and you never really see too much of an outcry because it's part and parcel of it, but the players can see what an injustice it is really. To this second I still don't really understand why.
"There have been league officials from SCEFL on the forum that have said there was no talk of a points deduction, there was no such thing, these clubs did not complain. It's quite hard to take, I'm thinking to myself that there must be another reason.
"I'm hearing and seeing that they (Canterbury) are going to appoint another manager within the week, that's just got such bad taste to it, considering that I'm not just a football manager there, I do a lot more than that.
"We've been getting more and more supporters, we've had the supporters' group set up, that's without taking into account the FA Vase.
"There are players at that club that wouldn't have thought twice about going to the club before I was there. People are entertaining going to Canterbury City football club now. For me, it's gutting. I put my life and soul into that club, anybody who has been around that club will know.
"I don't want people to slag off the directors, which I've seen. It doesn't need to come to that, I have a lot of respect for them and have worked with them. It's nice though that people can see how ludicrous it is.
"There must be something else in the background that I'm not aware of, there must be. Not one person can explain to me why I've been sacked.
"I haven't left, it says I've left, that's absolutely incorrect, I've been sacked. I wouldn't have left. I get the comments can be construed in a certain way, it's not exactly what I meant by them. Ask any other manager in the SCEFL and they'd have said the same thing.
"I've had a lot of support from managers in the SCEFL telling me that, so those things go down well. I'm just gutted, I considered Canterbury my club and I'm no longer going to be involved with it which is going to be difficult."
The SCEFL released a statement on Tuesday morning denying that they had received complaints from any clubs regarding Smith's remarks.
League Secretary Derek Peck said: "A number of comments have appeared in the press and on social media following the announcement by Canterbury City they had parted company with their Manager Ben Smith.
"The league would like to confirm that we did not receive a complaint from any of our member clubs, specifically Corinthian or K Sports, regarding comments attributed to Ben in an article published in last week's Kentish Gazette.
"The league made contact with Canterbury City Football Club last Friday expressing their own concerns over those comments."
More by this authorCameron Hogwood