Sheppey United are kicking off the new season with a change at the top.
Local businessman Tony Hughes has been appointed club chairman to replace the departed Matt Smith while interviews for a new manager have continued in the week.
Director of football Ernie Batten took charge for their final two pre-season games and if a new manager isn’t in place by Saturday, he’ll be at the helm when they head to Broadbridge Heath for their first game of the Isthmian South East season.
Hughes is a big believer in the club and the community working in harmony as he looks to oversee the continued growth at Holm Park.
He jumped at the chance to take over as chairman after being asked by his old mate Batten.
“I was quite surprised when he asked,” Hughes admitted. “Ernie said, ‘You’re a local man and a business man’ and he wanted to keep it part of the community, that’s one of his big things.
“Giving back to the community is something I am a massive lover of, that was one of the attractions to go up there, to help from the youth section all the way through to the first team, and the ladies team. It was an easy decision to make for me.
“We want the club to sustain itself so Ernie hasn’t got to put any more money into it. They have spent a lot of money up there, they have done the ground and the car park.
“It’s very much about stability this season and putting a plan together for two to five years, where we want to take the club because we want it to be sustainable, not over-stretch ourselves and try and jump too quick.
“If we can get some stability into the club, then we can get our plans together where we’d like to be next season and the season after that.”
Hughes is the managing director at CDDL Recycling, based in Sheerness.
He said: “I am an islander, I live down the road. When you look at the club it looks absolutely fantastic doesn’t it?
“This is good exposure for myself, I get to meet a lot of different people. It allows me to grow the club and I think we will get a lot more people up there as I’m an islander that people know, someone they can look to and know who they are. It’s nice to be a part of Sheppey United.
“The first team have had a fantastic pre-season, even with a couple of interim managers, the dressing room is really buzzing.
“The under-23s and under-18s won their leagues last year and you have some players coming up through into the first team. The way I have looked at it is that if you start at youth, under-7s, as a club we want to get them all the way through to the first team. There is a great structure for that to happen.
“The crowd of people that are up there at the moment are absolutely fantastic, the volunteers, the people that work there, they are all for Sheppey.”
It’s been an unsettled summer within the club, with chairman Smith and chief executive Shelley Holtam following former manager Midson out of the door, but the on-field team has remained consistent.
Midson had already signed up most of the squad that came close to reaching the play-offs last term. Leading scorer Warren Mfula has been replaced by returning club talisman Dan Bradshaw.
Exciting winger James Bessey-Saldanha joined under interim boss Ross Wiles, who also signed up a handful of youngsters that had helped the under-23s to title success last season.
Bessey-Saldanha, Josh Wisson and a trialist scored for Sheppey in a 3-3 draw against Margate on Saturday, coming from 2-0 down. They drew last Tuesday’s game against Whitehawk 0-0.
Batten has been interviewing candidates to take over as manager.
Hughes said: “Ernie has the skills and the expertise and he knows what he is doing (as caretaker boss) but he wants a manager in place as soon as possible and has interviewed two or three. He needs to find the right one that gives him what he wants from a football point of view and also a community point of view.”
The first home game for the Ites is next Saturday when they host Midhurst & Easebourne in the FA Cup Preliminary Round.