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Canterbury City chairman Tim Clark explains decision to part company with manager Ben Smith

Canterbury City chairman Tim Clark says the club had no choice but to sack Ben Smith after rival clubs complained about 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.

Canterbury City chairman Tim Clark
Canterbury City chairman Tim Clark

The teams were due to meet on Saturday in a game which Cray eventually won 2-0 to take the Southern Counties East League Premier Division title.

A couple of clubs complained about the comments to the league who then contacted Canterbury via email on Friday.

Smith left his job on Sunday morning after a meeting with Mr Clark, who described his comments as 'ill judged.'

Mr Clark added: "When you're the first team manager of a club with the profile we have you need to choose your words carefully.

"Ben was a bit naive in what he said and his views were not in any way representative of Canterbury City or our ethos.

"We've always prided ourselves as being one of the most welcoming clubs in the league but the interview led to a lot of negativity about us.

"There was always likely to be some sensitivity about a game as big as this and unfortunately some of Ben comments could be open to different interpretations.

"One interpretation which was to what extent to which we were going to be competitive and the last thing we wanted was to be seen to being bringing the league into disrepute.

"There was sufficient concern from the league to contact us and in the end we felt we needed to be seen to take decisive action."

Ben Smith has left his job as manager of Canterbury Picture: Chris Davey
Ben Smith has left his job as manager of Canterbury Picture: Chris Davey

Mr Clark said that the club did not want to take action before the Cray game had been played and added that he didn't think an apology from Smith about the issue would have been sufficient in the circumstances.

The club themselves issued a full and unreserved apology to the league and its member clubs via Twitter on Sunday, at the same time they announced Smith's departure. He had been part of the management set-up since June 2015.

Mr Clark said: "We wanted to keep everything as normal as possible on matchday, we did not want to detract from what was clearly a crucial game.

"It's sad how Ben's time with us has ended, but we acknowledge his achievements this season (reaching the FA Vase semi-finals where they lost to Cray Valley) and wish him every success in the future.

"He was upset about what has happened but there is certainly no animosity on our part."

Mr Clark revealed that the club started receiving inquiries about the vacant manager's job within an hour of Smith's exit. They hope to make an appointment within the next week.

City complete their season away to Bearsted on Tuesday.

What Ben Smith said ahead of the Cray Valley game

“There is that element of revenge but there is also that element of whether we want Cray Valley or Corinthian going up.

"Our ambition is to get promoted. Will it be a tougher league next year with Cray Valley at the top with the money they spend?

"Do you want a side that don’t pay any money or one that throw bucket loads at it and are going to get more from the Vase final at Wembley?

“We just have to make sure we put a decent side out for the integrity of the league.”

Read more: All the latest sports news in Kent

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