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Sheppey United assistant boss Darren Blackburn enjoyed his season working alongside Steve Watt at Hythe Town

Darren Blackburn says a year working alongside manager Steve Watt at Hythe was a real benefit to his own coaching career.

Blackburn was no.2 to Watt last season as Hythe beat the odds to make it to the Isthmian South East play-off final, losing out to Whitehawk after dumping Ramsgate out in the semis.

Darren Blackburn was manager of Sittingbourne before a spell as no.2 at Hythe Town Picture: Ken Medwyn
Darren Blackburn was manager of Sittingbourne before a spell as no.2 at Hythe Town Picture: Ken Medwyn

For personal reasons, Blackburn stood down at the start of the 2023/24 campaign and has now taken on the role of joint assistant manager at Sheppey.

He’s previously managed at Hollands & Blair and Sittingbourne but is even wiser now after that terrific season with Sheppey’s league rivals Hythe.

Blackburn said: “I hope Watty gets another job soon because it’s a waste to have him out of football. I can’t speak highly enough of him.

“I enjoyed my time there, the dressing room was fantastic and all of that culminated in the success that we had together, even down to the kitman Mick, everyone was rowing in the same direction and that is all you want when you join a football club.

“I have had that at other clubs where we have not had massive budgets, you have to have that togetherness and that is massive in the dressing room.

“I learned loads and even coaching, Steve can put on a coaching session like that, he’s been doing it for years.

“He’s worked with some fantastic world-renowned coaches and if you can’t pick up something from working with Steve Watt then you’re probably not watching or listening! I have tried to learn and I hope he is back in the game sooner, rather than later.

“Working with Watty was time well spent that I can utilise going forward.

“Everyone you work with you try and take bits from and I feel like this one was a club that I think I can add a bit of value to, with a few contacts, try and increase that strength in depth of the squad but from the right financial standing.”

Steve Watt on the sidelines as Hythe manager Picture: Randolph File
Steve Watt on the sidelines as Hythe manager Picture: Randolph File

Blackburn is now working as no.2 to Ernie Batten, who led the club to the next level from the Southern Counties East Premier Division.

Speaking of his new boss, Blackburn said: “Ernie is very balanced, on and off the pitch, he has that overall say in the club, which is great.

“Tony Hughes, the chairman, seems like a really nice guy as well, and the youth set-up, everything about the club has a nice feel to it.

“I have a bit of a family connection, a few family members that live on the island and my uncle supports the club.

“For me, it wasn’t about joining a club that was successful or not, it was about what value can I add to the club and that is why this one took me.

“They have got a lot of things in place already that I haven’t had at clubs I have worked at previously, that is obvious.

“I know all the work that has been done on and off the pitch, they have got a squad there that is already fairly established and I am sure the bulk of them will stay, hopefully, then we can kick on and progress from there.”

The club have already started to confirm players they will keep on for the new campaign, with top scorer Jacob Lambert and winger Danny Leonard both extending their stay for the 2024/25 season.

Both players were instrumental in the team’s success last season.

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