Published: 08:00, 08 May 2020
| Updated: 08:38, 08 May 2020
Justin Luchford had to turn things around at Faversham Town before they could clinch the Kent League title.
Our Decade of Champions feature celebrates those teams in Kent who finished top of the pile. Town's former manager talks to us from his current home in Dubai about how it happened.
The Team: Faversham Town
The League: Kent League
The Season: 2009/10
The Manager: Justin Luchford
BACKGROUND TO THE SEASON;
New manager Justin Luchford had to turn things around with Faversham Town before they could start dreaming of winning things.
He said: "When Myself and Jimmy Strouts (then assistant manager) got the job they were bottom, it was around January time if I remember right, but we managed to get them mid-table by the end of the season. The following season we came fourth and that year Jimmy left for personal reasons. Clive Walker came on board and the following season we took them up.
"I had been at Hythe and knew a lot of their players and two of the big ones I managed to get were Michael 'Buster' Smissen and Dale Skelton.
"Richard Sinden also came in and I remember the conversation with him when I looked to sign him. He couldn't understand why I would want him, as I already had three forwards, but I knew he was a proven goalscorer and he might not play every week. I knew he would win me games and I think he ended up winning us four or five, coming off the bench and scoring the winner.
"We weren’t far off, we just needed an injection of quality, and I think we added that. We had a back four that already included Lee Shearer and we had the likes of Dave Botterill and Damian Abel, my brother Dane and Tom Hickman was the skipper."
A WORD ON THE SKIPPER
"Tom Hickman typified everything we wanted to do, which was to give absolutely everything in every game.
"He was a pain in the backside to manage though. He would either be late, or he couldn't make training, he had broken down somewhere, he had so many excuses but the thing I knew was that come 3pm on a Saturday, when he crossed the white line, he was going to give me everything.
"We needed someone in midfield who could run, work hard and break things up and he did exactly that. He popped up with the odd goal as well, if I remember rightly.
WERE THERE ANY STARS?
"Buster Smissen used to get the hump with me because I would play him for 70 minutes and then take him off but my thinking was, every time he scored one or two goals, I would take him off it the game was won and wrap him in cotton wool because I could bring Sinden off the bench. He could be rested for the next one. Shearer also scored 14 goals from centre half that year."
THE EARLY STAGES OF THE SEASON
"There was a key period early on which would set the tone.
"We played Hythe in the FA Cup and we lost. It might have been 2-0. I made a mistake that day, I treated it like an FA Cup final, we had a pre-match meal, went somewhere first and got all together and tried to make a day of it.
"There was a bit of needle between the teams. I don’t think there is any love lost between me and Scott Porter )(then manager of Hythe) when we are on the touchline. At the same time, away from football, I get on with Scott famously. Me and Scott will always get on but we are very passionate on the sideline.
"We had lost to Hythe and then the following week we met them again in the league. I remember we won 2-1, Sinden got the winner, flying through the air. He is only 5’6 but managed to score at the back post. We won that and then played Herne Bay on the Tuesday night, our arch rivals, from a local perspective. It was quite clear at the beginning that it was between us, Hythe and Herne Bay.
"We went there and beat Simon Halsey’s Herne Bay 5-1 and those six points just catapulted us to the top of the table. I always remember that as being a key period because we went on something like a five game winning streak and it gave us some daylight. From then on we didn’t look back."
KEY TO SUCCESS?
"It was down to the lads and it was one of the best dressing rooms I had every been in.
"There was a great camaraderie and if we did anything outside of football everyone was always there. Everyone played their part and they had such a bond between them, they all helped each other out, they backed each other and we didn’t really have any cross words. We didn’t have any bad eggs in the dressing room.
"The players that year were phenomenal. We only lost four games, our goals conceded was tiny, the defensive record was fantastic. Rob French was in goal, a fantastic goalkeeper at the time, he could have gone on and done things in football.
"Clive Walker (assistant manager) as well was key. I had him there and I knew what I wanted to do but sometimes you need an older head to bounce things off. I was still young and he was helpful in that regard."
"You have to look at the people behind the scenes and the club were so desperate to get into the Ryman League.
"Halfway through the season you could see there was a real opportunity but there was so much work to do at the ground to get it up to standard. A special mention goes to a good friend who was on the board at the time, Tony Gray. He passed away a couple of years ago and that was very sad. He was instrumental in getting things done around the club and backing me to try and get promotion.
"We had the likes of Bobby Mason and Ray Leader desperately trying to get the club into a position to move it forward. The guys off the pitch were fantastic.
"We had fencing put down the side, lots of changes to the changing rooms, this is prior to what is there now, there was so much work that needed to be done and people were putting their hands in their pockets. We had loads of volunteers, people who loved the club.
"If there were any unsung heroes it has to be them. My job was on the pitch, I had the best players, I don’t think anyone could argue with that, they got playing together and they loved it."
"Herne Bay and Hythe Town were the rivals and I think we took six points off both. We certainly didn't lose to them in the league. That is what made the difference.
"Herne Bay were a good side, they were through to the semi-final of the FA Vase. Simon Halsey was a good manager there and he had a great set of players, there were very good.
"I remember the day we beat them 5-1, I tweaked the line up slightly and I don’t think they coped with it very well. We played three upfront and I just dropped two of them back a bit so they couldn’t pick them up. For 20 minutes we were unplayable.
"It was probably the best my team at Faversham ever played, that first 20 minutes against Herne Bay, we ripped them to shreds. I don’t think they knew what hit them."
"I remember going to Sporting Bengal on a Saturday afternoon. There had been horrendous rain and I was forking the pitch, to get the game on. I knew if the games started to back up there could be problems.
"We won the game late on. We played them at home and we won 10-0 and their keeper got man-of-the-match. He must have gone home and told his family he got man-of-the-match and they asked how he got on, they lost 10-0. He made so many saves.
"We were about 7-0 up and we got a penalty. Damien Abel took it, it was saved, the referee said to take it again, so Dane Luchford took it and the keeper saved it again. He was made to take it again and he also saved the third! He saved three in a row and it was a funny old game.
"We also played Beckenham at home and I remember that one as Dover’s game got called off late and a lot of their fans came to our ground on the way home and because Lee Shearer was a bit of a legend there they were singing his name. That was quite a surreal game but I think we might have lost that one though!"
THE RUN IN;
"We needed a point out of our last three games I think. I was desperate for it to be a home game on a Saturday afternoon but as the fixtures worked we ended up playing the Kent Senior Trophy Cup final on the Sunday, against Greenwich Borough at Welling, when I famously left my brother out.
"That didn’t go down well from a family perspective. My dad wasn’t happy and my brother wasn’t happy but Greenwich were really strong in midfield and I played four centre midfielders across the middle to stop them trying to run the game. They were decent at the time.
"I had one eye on the Tuesday night against Corinthian, and we would win the league if we won it. I tried to say that to my brother, he was starting that Corinthian game whatever because we would go back to our usual line up and Tuesday was more important to me than the cup final. We were trying to get in to the Ryman League.
"I was vindicated because we won the cup final 2-1 and then played Corinthian on the Tuesday, my brother got the first goal and we beat them 8-0. There weren’t that many people there on a Tuesday night, there was a celebration, but it would have been nicer on a Saturday afternoon, but I wasn’t complaining.
"It was a great year and we had some great times. The people were fantastic. That gave me my start in football management really, that allowed me to manage other clubs after that and also then spend three great years with Tonbridhge Angels before moving to Dubai.
"I was there for when we won the play-off, beating Murston, but for the Super Play-off final I flew out the night before, so I missed that but I spoke to all the boys after.
"I’ve really enjoyed working with Steve McKimm (the Tonbridge Angels manager). I have learnt more from Steve McKimm than anyone I’ve ever worked with (together with the knowledge of my very good friend Jake Leberl) which will make me either a better number one or a more established number two under him!
"I love football and it’s my life. There is an old saying about when you bleed, but when I bleed I bleed footballs! That’s what I know and what I learn on a daily basis (even through lockdown, watching football)
"Working under Steve has given me even more knowledge than I can ever have imagined. He played at the top of the non league as did Barry (Moore, assistant), and if you can’t learn from those two, who have been in the position you have always wanted, then you don’t listen."
Read more from our Decade of Champions feature;