Published: 05:00, 06 May 2022
Chris Solly is nearing the end of his first campaign as a player/coach - and he’s loved every minute.
The 31-year-old spent a decade as a professional at Charlton, winning two promotions to the Championship, but he’s enjoyed a fresh outlook on the game at Ebbsfleet in National League South.
A virtual ever-present for Dennis Kutrieb’s side, Solly has also seen the work that goes on by the management team as he takes the first steps on his coaching career.
“It’s been a bit of a different role for me obviously as a player/coach but I’ve loved working alongside the manager,” said Solly.
“The way he plays, there’s so many similarities in how I see the game. I’ve played a lot of minutes this season which is something I wanted to do, I wanted to play as much as I could while still dipping my toe into the other side of things.
“He has allowed me to do that and I can’t thank him enough. I’ve loved every minute of it.”
It’s a move that Solly has been working towards for some time - not many professional players take coaching badges before their mid-twenties.
But the fact he’s been able to work alongside a manager who shares his outlook on the game has been a major plus.
“I’ve always had my eye on it, even from quite a young age,” revealed Solly.
“I must have been 23 or 24 when I did my B licence and managing my body through the last 10 years or so has given me a keener interest in the other side of things as well.
“I started my A licence last summer so that’s coincided perfectly with playing here, still at a very good club and with the brand of football we play it’s impossible not to enjoy every game. I’m appreciating it.
“A lot of the beliefs the gaffer has, the way he sets us up and the positive brand of football he wants us to play every week is exactly how I would want to do things if I was in his position.
“He’s taken me under his wing, he’s shown me why he does things, how he works and I can’t be thankful enough.
“He is always positive in the group about playing forward-thinking, fast, attractive football.
“When you watch top teams on the telly every week, the Man Citys and Liverpools who are the best teams in the world at the minute, obviously we’re a million miles away from them but we’re aspiring to play that brand of football.”
It’s not just the extra hours that coaching entails that Solly has noticed this season.
He’s now watching matches with a coach’s hat on, and it’s given him a fresh outlook on the game.
“Even in training, a drill might go on and you might be thinking ‘oh I wonder why he’s done that or I like why he’s done that’ and I might even go home and jot that session down and think I’ll use that one day,” said Solly.
“But when you’re a young lad coming through those thoughts don’t cross your mind, you go out to train, you do the drill, do your possession game or a five-a-side and you go back to the dressing room.
“I’d like to think now I think differently about every aspect of football.
“Even indoors, I watch a lot of football - the missus doesn’t like that! - but most nights I’ll have a game on and you find yourself watching it slightly different.
“You’re not just enjoying the game, you start to think about shapes or how could you expose that or if we come up against that on a Saturday what can we do to stop it happening. I’m probably enjoying my football now more than I ever did.”
Solly played more than 300 times for Charlton but is now equally-popular among Fleet followers. He’s aiming to play on for as long as he can, and is enjoying a new lease of life from his traditional right-back role.
“I’m seeing the game slightly differently from different positions,” he added. “I was predominantly a right-back throughout my career at Charlton but here I’ve played 95 per cent of the time through the middle, either centre-half or in midfield, and I’m loving it.
“One of the biggest positives about the gaffer is we do so many patterns and drills, if I was to play in any of the 10 positions I would know what my role is within the team.
“If I’m playing middle of the back three, right of the back three, centre-mid, I would know exactly what’s expected of me, and it’s difficult to get that in teams.”
Solly will look to help the Fleet secure third spot this Saturday when they host Chelmsford. That would set up a home play-off semi-final on Sunday, May 15.
Fleet slipped to fourth on Saturday, Solly scoring in their 2-2 draw with Chippenham, but they moved back above Dartford after Craig Tanner’s late goal in a 2-1 win at Billericay on Monday.