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Herne Bay boss Ben Smith hopes return of club legend Dan Lawrence as under-18s manager can improve link between Bay's youth section and first-team


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Manager Ben Smith hopes the return of a Herne Bay legend can help improve the link between the club’s youth section and the first-team.

Dan Lawrence has rejoined as the club’s under-18s manager, replacing Mark Harvey, with the midfielder having left Southern Counties East Premier Division outfit Canterbury City.

Herne Bay manager Ben Smith. Picture: Randolph File
Herne Bay manager Ben Smith. Picture: Randolph File

Lawrence has played twice under Smith - at City and Herne Bay - and with Bay not planning to run an under-23s team during the 2022/23 season, the relationship between their under-18s and the first-team is expected to be even more vital.

“He’s a friend of mine. I have known DL a long time,” said Smith, who added they will be taking “one thing at a time” when asked if Lawrence - who had a stint as City's joint-manager during their 2021/22 season - would also be involved in a first-team capacity.

“He has played for me as well. It’s really nice to bring him back to the club in a managerial capacity.

“He will forge the link between the youth section and the first-team. It’s a bit of a gap because we will not have an under-23s next year.

“We don’t want to run before we can walk but we have some really talented boys in the under-16s.

Dan Lawrence rejoins Herne Bay from Canterbury City following a spell as their joint-manager last season. Picture: Marc Richards
Dan Lawrence rejoins Herne Bay from Canterbury City following a spell as their joint-manager last season. Picture: Marc Richards

“I’m sure, with DL at the helm, it [Bay’s under-18s] will be a success.”

Smith wants to give talented players from the area the opportunity to ply their trade with the club if they are good enough.

He added: “We have had some players from the area go on and do really well.

“Sam McCallum signed for a club who were in the Premier League and there is also someone like a Stuart King.

“He may not have signed for a professional team but he scored a lot of goals and helped Maidstone and Folkestone get promoted. He had a fantastic non-league career.

Herne Bay in action against Whitstable during their 2021/22 season at Winch's Field. Their pitch has been stripped out and work to install a 3G pitch is under way. Picture: Les Biggs
Herne Bay in action against Whitstable during their 2021/22 season at Winch's Field. Their pitch has been stripped out and work to install a 3G pitch is under way. Picture: Les Biggs

“If we can give some Herne Bay lads like them first-team chances, that’s what we are aiming to do.”

Work on the club’s new 3G pitch is also under way ahead of Bay’s inaugural Isthmian Premier campaign.

“Our 3G will be second to none in terms of quality,” Smith commented.

“It’s the highest spec with everything - nothing has been spared.

“It will be the best in the area and we are excited for it. Some have said they prefer grass pitches - we all do - but with the likes of ourselves and Whitstable getting 3G pitches, we can have our youth teams training on it twice a week.

“Whatever model we want to set up as a youth pathway, we can do.

"We become masters of our own destiny.”

Plenty of players have approached Bay about the possibility of joining but Smith, who is yet to announce his plans regarding his playing squad for the 2022/23 campaign, says his primary focus is to maintain the core of last season’s side.

He stated: “There’s a lot of interest but we have got to make the right decisions, rather than jumping at the first players we see.

“During pre-season, we will look at a few players.

“But the aim is we will have a settled side and we can just add to it.”

Smith also praised club secretary Martyn Sexton, who has organised seven away friendlies against Tooting and Mitcham (July 9), Welling (July 12), Sheppey (July 16), VCD (July 19), Chipstead (July 26), Merstham (July 30) and Sittingbourne (August 2) with their home ground out of action this summer.

“There’s a good mix. The secretary has done an amazing job getting that in place,” said Bay’s boss.

“When we don’t have a home pitch, it’s difficult so he’s done really well.”

Trials to join Lawrence’s Kent Youth League Premier Division side will be held at Herne Bay Sports Hub next Wednesday (7-9pm), next Sunday (11am-1pm) and June 26 (11am-1pm).

To register, go to www.cognitoforms.com/HerneBayU18s/HerneBayUnder18Trials.

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