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Off-the-pitch plans already in place at Southern Counties East Premier Division champions Deal Town with drainage work at Charles Sports Ground undertaken before 2024/25 season

Off-the-pitch plans are already in place at Southern Counties East Premier Division champions Deal.

Natalie Benville, the club’s chair, and the rest of the board wasted little time in preparing for their inaugural campaign in Isthmian South East, with the club introducing an under-23s side to replace their reserve team.

Jamie Kennedy - the teenage forward has penned a contract with Deal Town. Picture: Paul Willmott
Jamie Kennedy - the teenage forward has penned a contract with Deal Town. Picture: Paul Willmott

While Deal plan to stick with their grass pitch, Benville revealed the only thing she loses sleep over at the club is their surface.

She said: “There’s only one thing that I lose sleep over - and it’s the pitch.

“Kingy (manager Steve King) is in control of the boys, so the pitch is my main concern.

“I’m not a pitch specialist. However, you can tell with the amount of rain that you get whether a match is going to be on or not.

“We’re all volunteers. But there’s a real pressure that you feel when you’re expecting around 1,500 people because people look forward to it on a Saturday and, sometimes, games can be called off at 1.30pm because the pitch is not playable.

Deal Town’s club chair Natalie Benville
Deal Town’s club chair Natalie Benville

“It’s absolutely gutting and so disheartening. Yes, we want the grass to be good but we need to look at (improving) the drainage, as well.

“That starts in mid-May and we need a good eight weeks to give it some rest.”

There are other things which the Charles Sports Ground club needs to look at improving, too, but it’s their pitch which is the primary concern.

“It will be tiny things,” Benville noted. “For example, we have to fence off the practice pitch.

“There’s a lot of stuff that we can do in the close season. We’re going to look to put some drainage in because of how bad the winter has been this season.

“We cannot afford to have the same number of games we have had postponed again next season. But, with the weather that we have had, you can’t always mitigate against that.”

Deal’s under-23s will compete in the Southern Counties East Development League while 18-year-old striker Jamie Kennedy has penned a contract.

But they will start their under-23s team under a new boss, reserve manager Andrew Crush stepping aside for personal reasons.

On first-team matters, meanwhile, Benville and the rest of the club’s board are excited at the prospect of visiting - and learning from - different clubs in the new season.

She said: “Do you get a bit stagnant with the clubs you go to?

“As a board, we probably do. But there’s new clubs we get to go to now and we are always learning.

“Going to new clubs, we could think ‘We could do that’ and it might change our experience on a match day. That’s what it is all about.”

Competing at Step 4 will be a new experience for Deal as a club. But plenty of their players, including striker Aaron Millbank, fellow forward Rory Smith, winger Tom Chapman and vice-captain Macauley Murray, are among those to have played at the level before.

On her ambitions for 2024/25 , Benville said: “We just want to survive and be in a position where we won’t be questioning it (the prospect of going back down). I think a lot of people would say that, actually, the level we play at should be adequate for that level.

“It’s really exciting.”

The 2000 FA Vase victors also reached the Quarter-Final stage last season.

Benville said: “As a club, it will be sad not to be in the FA Vase next year. But, actually, being promoted makes up for that.”

Deal have named their main stand “The Derek Hares Stand” after the former manager.

Hares has had two lengthy spells in charge of the side, most recently standing down in July 2022, as well as being club chairman. He also played for Deal in the 1960s.

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