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Former Sheppey United manager Ernie Batten proud of the club's progress

Ernie Batten is proud of the club Sheppey have become as he settles into his new director of football role.

The Ites’ quadruple-winning manager moved upstairs on the eve of the new Isthmian South East season, handing the reins to striker Jack Midson.

Former Sheppey United manager Ernie Batten Picture: Chris Davey
Former Sheppey United manager Ernie Batten Picture: Chris Davey

Rather than dwell too much on the timing of his decision, which surprised many, Batten prefers to reflect on Sheppey’s progress.

“You do miss it but I did it for seven years and sometimes other things in life become more important and that’s where I find myself,” he said.

“When you’ve been involved for as long as I have, when is the right time?

“The club’s certainly in a good place and the team I’m sure will establish itself at this level.

“It’s going to take a bit of time to find our feet and, in time, there might be a few adjustments, but there’s no reason why the team can’t do well.

“I’m sure it’ll be an ongoing thing, it’ll evolve, as we did right from the start.

“We build at a reasonable pace, so it takes time if you’ve got ambitions to get to the next level. I think the great thing about Sheppey, the key thing, has been the balance between what we’ve achieved on the pitch and off it.

“When we started out at Holm Park it was just a field with a rope around it and we’ve gone from that to a very smart-looking, modern stadium with the latest facilities.

“We’ve just invested £116,000 on a car park, which has all been laid, for 100 spaces and we’ve got another area on the other side of the ground for players and officials.

“We’ve got the latest 3G surface and sprinkler system, the best on the market, the academy’s starting in September, and we’ve got Step 4 Isthmian status.

“I think that balance is absolutely key to creating a sustainable club.

“As me and Matt (Smith, chairman) said all along, we wanted to do something that will be here for decades to come, not something that will fail and go out of business like Sheppey United did before.

“That’s what we’ve got, it’s a progression and I’m sure, in time, the club will get to the next level.

Jefferson Aibangee celebrates his goal for Sheppey United against Chichester City Picture: Marc Richards
Jefferson Aibangee celebrates his goal for Sheppey United against Chichester City Picture: Marc Richards

“I’m very proud of that. If we take one aspect, say the car park, now a lot of clubs would have left the old surface down and spent the money on the team and said go for promotion this season because that would give you another £3,000 a week on the wage bill and get you some very good players.

“We’ve resisted all the way along, we’ve always cut our cloth and that’s testament to the football club, to Matt and the committee and everybody around it, that we’ve ended up in the fantastic situation we find ourselves in today.

“That’s what I’m proud of, I know going forward, whether I’m there or whether Matt’s there or not, that legacy will continue for many, many years and decades to come.”

Sheppey started their league campaign with a 1-1 draw at home to Chichester on Saturday.

Jefferson Aibangee gave them the lead on the stroke of half-time, with Callum Overton levelling just after the break.

The Ites then thrashed Athletic Newham 6-0 in an FA Cup replay on Tuesday night - Warren Mfula with a hat-trick - and host Newhaven in the preliminary round this Saturday.

It’s a busy start for new boss Midson, the former AFC Wimbledon striker, but one Batten feels he’s ready for.

“I think Jack was probably a little shell-shocked when he was offered the job, it came as a bit of a surprise, but it’s a great opportunity for him,” said Batten.

“He’s a very experienced player. Management is a different thing but he’s had a bit of experience as assistant to Sammy Moore at Concord and a couple of other clubs, and he readily accepted the position.

“At his age, 38, it’s the next step after playing, although I’m sure he’ll still play at times.

“Most people who’ve had success in management will tell you that you live it day in, day out.

“I could be a moody bugger, my wife will tell you that.

“If you’re a real football person, whether you’re running Sheppey United or Manchester United, you feel the same sort of pressures, and enjoyment as well.”

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