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Margate boss Jay Saunders says this is his toughest challenge in management

Jay Saunders has admitted the current challenges facing him at Margate are the toughest he’s known in management.

Saunders enjoyed three promotions in seven years at Maidstone but football is not immune to the financial implication of coronavirus.

Margate manager Jay Saunders. Picture: Steve Terrell (42290803)
Margate manager Jay Saunders. Picture: Steve Terrell (42290803)

That’s led to a number of departures from Hartsdown Park and gives Saunders – and new assistant boss Jamie Coyle – the chance to put their coaching skills to maximum effect as they develop a young and enthusiastic line-up.

“In all my years in management, it’s the hardest time I’ve had,” said Saunders, who took over as Margate manager in February 2019.

“It’s been really tough but you have to work hard and keep going.

“We’re really young and inexperienced, probably apart from Liam Friend and Reece Prestedge everyone else is under 24.

“It’s going to be a case with a few of them of learning on the job. It’s an opportunity for them and it has given us a new energy.

“We’ve had a positive pre-season, playing well against Dover and Ramsgate.

“The young players are having to learn along the way but I enjoy coaching younger players and helping them improve. We did it at Maidstone when we helped players progress and it will be good if we can do that here.”

Margate visit Brightlingsea in their Isthmian Premier opener this Saturday before hosting Hayes & Yeading in the FA Cup. Two home league games against much-fancied Carshalton and Hornchurch follow before the end of a testing opening fortnight.

“We’ve got a really tough start,” admitted Saunders. “Brightlingsea is our longest away trip and Hayes & Yeading are a really good side so it’s a positive that we’re at home in the FA Cup.

“Then Carshalton and Hornchurch are two of the favourites in the division.”

Saunders’ main focus this week, however, has been to strengthen his forward line.

Kadell Daniel and Elliott Reeves have both departed while Noel Leighton suffered an Achilles injury in pre-season which will rule him out for the first six weeks.

Saunders has drafted in Gillingham youngster Toby Bancroft while Connor Evans has also impressed.

“Elliott moved back up north when he lost his job due to Covid,” said Saunders.

“Without Kadell and with Noel injured it means we’ve lost our front three and it’s difficult to replace that experience. We’re still working to get a couple in.

“It’s difficult for clubs now, we’ve got to be a lot more sensible.”

It means Margate are likely to be competing in a division divided by finance. Clubs fighting it out at the top end are looking for promotion while the main objective for others maybe just to ensure that they still have a club in place by the end of the season.

Describing his new-look squad, Saunders noted: “We’ve lost more than I would have liked but because of Covid and the budget we’ve lost a few I wanted to keep.

“It’s been an interesting pre-season, we’re very young and I think that’s the good thing that has come out of this, the younger players will get their chance.

“When you look at some of the clubs in our division, who are spending money, they have had the pick of the players this year.

“For us, it can go one way or the other, it might be hit or miss. There’s been plenty of positives in pre-season, the youngsters have stepped up from a lower level and I think they can handle it.”

First four league games: Sat Sep 19: Brightlingsea (a), Sat Sep 26: Carshalton (h), Tue Sep 29: Hornchurch (h), Sat Oct 3: Leatherhead (a).

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