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Vice-chairman Peter Varney disappointed by Maidstone United captain Steve Watt's criticism of Ebbsfleet United

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Peter Varney has responded to Steve Watt's criticism of Ebbsfleet after the defender was told to choose between the Kent clubs this summer.

Watt, the Stones captain, had combined his playing commitments with a coaching job at the Fleet academy, working alongside Daryl McMahon - now their first-team manager.

But when Maidstone clinched promotion to Vanarama National League South, the idea of employing the skipper of one of their direct rivals in 2015/16 worried Ebbsfleet and Mr Varney.

Peter Varney Picture: Andy Payton
Peter Varney Picture: Andy Payton

Watt was offered the under-18 manager's job - succeeding McMahon - but he would have had to leave the Stones and call time on his playing career aged 30 if he'd accepted the role.

Speaking to KentOnline last week, Watt said he didn't feel there would have been a conflict of interest and was unhappy to have been issued with that ultimatum.

He said: "It felt like they were holding a gun to my head – stop playing or lose a lot of money and security for my family."

But Mr Varney insisted there was no way Watt could have worked for Ebbsfleet and continued to play for Maidstone.

He said: "It was the view of the whole management that it would make things very complicated.

"When we had the conversation about this season, we sat down and explained to him that with Maidstone being a rival, it causes complications in the day-to-day management.

"It’s not the games, it’s nothing to do with when he plays, it’s all to do with the fact that day-to-day he was at the training ground. We had a good chat and explained it all.

"We paid him an additional amount (his contracted notice period) and he didn’t really come back after we paid him. I thought we treated him very well and it’s disappointing that he’s decided to publicly have a go at us."

Steve Watt is the new Margate manager. Picture: Martin Apps
Steve Watt is the new Margate manager. Picture: Martin Apps

Watt and Maidstone take on Ebbsfleet at the Gallagher Stadium on Tuesday night, with McMahon in the away dugout having succeeded Jamie Day as Fleet boss in April.

Mr Varney said: "When he was with Macca, they made a great team in terms of the academy. Don’t forget, we set the academy up from a starting point so I’ve got nothing negative to say about Steve.

"I thought he was a great foil for Macca, a different type of character and that’s why we wanted to keep him.

"We explained the situation to him about how it caused an issue for the whole management team.

"The problem is, you can say in a game ‘I won’t pass on information’ but it doesn’t matter whether you do or you don’t. The thought might be there for the management, that that’s what’s going on.

"We had a good chat and we said very much that we wanted him to stay, that we wanted him to choose us as the option. He had a choice between ourselves and Maidstone and he’s chosen Maidstone. Great, good luck to him.

"But I think you’ve got to be a bit classier than then slagging us off.

"You just accept that we’ve had an honest conversation, we did it face-to-face and he accepted the logic of it. He went away to think about it and decided to choose the other option.

"To then follow that up by having a go is disappointing."

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