Published: 06:00, 09 December 2020
There’s little doubt about the most famous management team in Kent in recent years.
Step forward Terry Yorath and Neville Southall.
It caused quite a stir when the Welsh football legends arrived at Margate in the summer of 2008 as part of an ambitious new structure.
Robin Trott had been sacked before the end of the 2007-8 season, with Steve McKimm - now at Tonbridge - taking the final two games.
Director Keith Piper emerged firmly in control after a bitter boardroom power struggle and named former Gills duo Barry Ashby and Paul Smith as manager and player-coach.
Everton great Southall - already a familiar face in Kent through his spell in charge at Dover - came in as head of football development at the Isthmian Premier club.
But Piper had another surprise in store, completing his dream team by appointing former Leeds star and ex-Wales boss Yorath as his director of football.
Ashby and Smith quickly departed after a difficult start to the season and Yorath took over, with Southall as his No.2.
“I got on very well with Terry,” remembers former Gate secretary Ken Tomlinson.
“He was a smashing guy and we kept in touch for a while after he left but it was difficult for him because he didn’t know football at this level - he couldn’t get his head around it.
“He’d moved down from Leeds to stay with his brother, Dai, and he didn’t know any players.
“Through no fault of his own, his knowledge for this level wasn’t right.
“He probably signed players on hearsay and if you’re a bit green at this level, you’re easily misled, no doubt about it.
“He phoned me one day and said he was finding it a struggle.
“I don’t think he ever came to terms with what you need, which was a shame because we got on really well.
"He went back to Leeds and was working on the legends side in the hospitality suites on matchdays."
There was big interest in Yorath and Southall, with the BBC Wales cameras down for a Football Focus feature and Tomlinson noting a big increase in the post from autograph hunters.
“It was a short spell but one good thing was all the publicity we got out of it,” he said.
“We had BBC Wales down for an interview and Terry and Nev were always very popular with opposition fans when we went away.
“Some got at them but they were legends in their own right, so it wasn’t surprising how well they went down with people after the careers they had.”
Yorath, who turned 70 in March, was part of Don Revie’s brilliant Leeds side who won the old Division 1 title in 1974 and finished runners-up in the European Cup.
As a manager, he guided Wales to the brink of a place at the 1994 World Cup in America.
But for Paul Bodin’s missed penalty in the final qualification game against Romania, they almost certainly would have made it.
He also managed Sheffield Wednesday, Bradford, Cardiff and Swansea - quite a CV to bring to Margate.
Southall was seen as one of the best goalkeepers in the world at his peak, winning two Division 1 titles, the FA Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup with Everton in the mid-1980s.
To see the pair standing side by side in front of the temporary dressing rooms at Hartsdown Park seemed more than a little surreal.
Unfortunately, results didn’t follow and Margate finished the 2008-9 season in the Isthmian Premier relegation places.
They were handed a reprieve from the drop and Yorath stayed in charge, briefly bringing Jamie Lawrence, a player he coached in the Premier League, to Hartsdown Park.
But Margate continued to struggle and Yorath resigned less than two months into the new season, going out on a high after a 2-1 win at Hendon.
Southall won his first game as caretaker manager but followed Yorath out of the club after being overlooked for the job which instead went to Ashford (Middx) boss Mark Butler.
Striker Lloyd Blackman joined Margate in the summer of 2009 and scored the winner in Yorath’s final match.
He’d been made captain by then and treasured his time with the former midfielder, who also starred for Tottenham.
You had to work hard for a compliment from Yorath but it was always worth it.
“I got on well with Terry instantly,” said Blackman, who’s in charge at Isthmian League Whitstable these days.
“He was very basic in the things he said but you were aware of what he wanted.
“He didn’t get too technical, he just made sure everyone understood their roles and responsibilities and I respected him for that.
“It was only a short time working with him but he made me captain when I was there and I hold him in the highest regard.
“He was very honest about things. When he made a positive comment you felt 10ft tall.
“You could count the positive comments on one hand but he delivered them at crucial times, during a game or a period as an individual when you needed it.
“Certain comments at the right time get a reaction. You remember those.
“Those are the things you learn through experience as a manager.
“Sometimes too many good comments just go in one ear and out the other.
“If you make sure the comments are at the right time, it can have 10 times the effect.
“I’ll always remember Terry and the way he handled things.
“Sadly I’ve not seen him since he left but he was a really nice man.”
Blackman was struck by how down to earth Yorath and Southall were, given everything they had achieved in football.
He added: “That was the thing, they were just two very normal people.
“Nev was one of the best keepers in Europe so if anyone was going to blow their own trumpet it was him but he was never like that.
“If they were sitting in the bar having a drink they might tell you a story or two but they never blew their own trumpet.
“They were down-to-earth guys which was admirable, considering the careers they had, to be so level-headed.
“I wasn’t in awe, it was more a case of respecting them highly and therefore making sure you do everything you could so as not to let yourself or them down.”