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Deal Town’s Aaron Millbank on potential of fellow forward Jamie Kennedy, leading the way in front of goal as the Hoops win the title and preparations for Isthmian League football

Aaron Millbank wouldn’t be surprised to see fellow Deal forward Jamie Kennedy make history for the club - provided he doesn’t move on.

The teenager made a big impact in the first-team squad on their way to Southern Counties East Premier Division glory, regularly getting on the scoresheet after stepping up from the successful reserve team.

Jamie Kennedy - is being tipped to have a big future in football by fellow Deal forward Aaron Millbank. Picture: Paul Willmott
Jamie Kennedy - is being tipped to have a big future in football by fellow Deal forward Aaron Millbank. Picture: Paul Willmott

Kennedy will get his first taste of Isthmian League football after he’s agreed terms on a contract for the 2024/25 season.

Millbank said: “He’s such a great lad.

“He wants to learn and is a great player. I’m not being funny, I wouldn’t be surprised if he made history for the club if he stayed here - if he doesn’t go higher - because he’s brilliant.

“He has got all the attributes. You wouldn’t believe that he’s 19.

“He’s built like a 30-year-old geezer. Good luck to him.”

Aaron Millbank leads Deal celebrations. Picture: Paul Willmott
Aaron Millbank leads Deal celebrations. Picture: Paul Willmott

Kennedy opened the scoring as a 3-1 home win against Lydd in front of a huge crowd helped Deal ensure the title would be heading to the Charles Sports Ground.

Millbank admitted the players owed the fans a big day after their shock 6-0 Kent Senior Trophy thumping against Punjab at Maidstone United in April 2023. They delivered just that.

“It was incredible,” he said. “At the end of the day, we owed them one from last year.

“They all travelled up to Maidstone and, for whatever reason, it didn’t go our way.”

Although he’s not club skipper or even vice-captain, Millbank regularly filled the void left by defender Kane Smith and midfielder Macauley Murray to lead the side.

Aaron Millbank got to play with Ashley Miller again at Deal after he joined from rivals Faversham. Picture: Paul Willmott
Aaron Millbank got to play with Ashley Miller again at Deal after he joined from rivals Faversham. Picture: Paul Willmott

“The board here are brilliant,” he added. “There’s no aura around ‘Oh look, that’s the chair lady’ - when we win, we all celebrate together.

“That’s really important. It’s a town and we have got that family feel.

“It’s not like people are just turning up to get their money.”

Millbank, who started at Gillingham, had targeted 30 goals in the 2023/24 season.

While falling just short, he happily took team success over any personal milestones.

“It’s great,” he noted. “I have always loved scoring goals.

“Sometimes, it’s been only about scoring goals for myself but, this season, it’s been a bit more about assisting and being there for the team.

“I have played right-back, left-back and centre midfield at different points, so we can get over the line. But that’s what it is all about.

“Don’t get me wrong, my aim was 30 but, with a promotion, I’ll happily take the goals that I have got.”

Millbank was Deal’s top scorer with 21 league goals but has been far from their only source of goals.

He said: “We create for each other.

“I think we have got five strikers that can get in most teams in this league. Then, we
have midfielders like Billy Munday, as well, and he’s got 20-odd goals. That’s incredible
from midfield.

“It does take the pressure off just one striker.”

It was a second promotion in three seasons for Millbank, who also enjoyed Isthmian South East success with Herne Bay two years ago, scoring in the Play-off Final at Ashford.

On where the achievement ranked, he said: “With a group of lads like this, it’s definitely up there.”

Millbank has also enjoyed playing alongside close mate Ashley Miller after he joined from divisional rivals Faversham earlier this year.

He said: “Me and Mills were together from under-9s until under-21s, I think, at Gillingham.

“I know how he plays, he knows how I play. We have been good friends throughout and stayed in contact when we went our separate ways at Gillingham.

“We’re good friends.”

The pair have been working together under boss Steve King, who himself has committed to stay for 2024/25.

Millbank noted: “He’s great. He’s one of the lads.

“Sometimes, he’s on the players and on the referees - but he only does it with good intentions. He wants the best out of everyone.

“Now, it’s done, he can relax a little bit! At the end of the day, he’s taken a mid-table SCEFL club, playing in front of 50 supporters, to one playing in front of 1,422 to promotion.

“Fair play to him.”

Competing at Step 4 will be a new experience for Deal, but plenty of their players, including Millbank, fellow forward Rory Smith, winger Tom Chapman, 30, and vice-captain Murray, are among those to have played at the level before.

Having achieved promotion, Chatham also won Isthmian South East the next season.

Millbank sees no reason why Deal cannot have similar success.

“We’re ambitious,” explained Millbank.

“There are teams like Chatham who went into that league and went up again, so there’s no reason why we can’t be up there fighting.”

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