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Margate manager Jay Saunders boosted by the Maidstone United connections at Hartsdown Park

By Craig Tucker

The collection of Maidstone old boys at Hartsdown Park helped Jay Saunders settle straight in as Margate manager.

Alex Flisher, Tom Mills, Frannie Collin, James Rogers, Jordy Robins and Ben Swift all played under Saunders at the Gallagher, while long-term injury victim Alex Brown completes the set.

Saunders said: “Walking into a new changing room and knowing faces is a nice thing.

Margate manager Jay Saunders Picture: Don Walker
Margate manager Jay Saunders Picture: Don Walker

“I know what they're going to offer me, I know what they can do and that's good.

“There's some of the younger ones as well, the likes of Swifty and Jordy, who I had at Maidstone, but you've got the old guard so I know what the likes of Rogo can offer me.

“I probably know if they're not doing it better than anyone, so it's been good.”

Saunders walked into a Bostik Premier relegation battle at Margate but has turned the place round in a matter of weeks, winning four and drawing two of his six games.

They’re up to 14th going into tomorrow’s home game against third-placed Merstham.

Saunders said: “Someone said it was 13 games or something without a win.

“I didn't actually realise it was that many and it was quite funny because after we won the first game, I thought, 'Blimey, it's like we've won the league.’

“I couldn’t get my head around it but I think it had just been so long since they'd won a game.

“I felt for Browny (Steve Brown) and Mike (Sandmann, the old management team).

Alex Flisher played under Jay Saunders at Maidstone Picture: Don Walker
Alex Flisher played under Jay Saunders at Maidstone Picture: Don Walker

“They had a lot of injuries and that's continued since I've been here but it's a good club, they just weren't getting results.

“I stood at training the other night and I said to Mike, ‘you can hear the atmosphere's completely changed.’

“I remember my first training session, we had eight people there and I thought, 'God, what have I done here?'

“But all of a sudden there's 18 training, the buzz is there, they're laughing and joking and you can see they want to be there.

“The benefit for me is I've done both sides, I've done the daytime training, I've done evening training and I know that when you've got lads who've been working all day, they have to come in and enjoy their football.

“It has gone well but it's like anything, losing becomes a habit, and winning becomes a habit.

“To be fair to the lads, they've taken on board what I've asked of them.

Tom Mills played under Jay Saunders for years at Maidstone Picture: Don Walker
Tom Mills played under Jay Saunders for years at Maidstone Picture: Don Walker

“They've had a good defensive record all season so I just felt if I could add at the other end and change the shape slightly, to go a bit more attacking, it might work.”

Saunders feels last weekend’s win against Bognor will stand Gate in good stead against a Merstham side who play equally good football.

The boss said: “Merstham are a good side. I've seen them and been really impressed. They play good football, attacking football, but we played really well against Bognor and we’ve

got to look to do the same.

“Almost, with teams like that, you've got to stop them playing and impose your game on them. That's what we did Saturday and we've got to do the same.

“It will be a tough test but we’re on a good run.

"I said to the boys that once we got a few wins on the board, hopefully we can start looking above us and pulling people in and that's what we've been able to do.

“You look at Kingstonian. When I came in they were five points off the play-offs and now they're below us.

“Credit to the boys and hopefully on Saturday we can continue that and get another good crowd in.”

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