Published: 00:00, 15 May 2019
Tonbridge captain Tom Parkinson rates Steve McKimm as one of the best up-and-coming managers in non-league football.
McKimm led Angels to promotion at the weekend as five years of hard work in the Longmead hotseat came to fruition.
He almost quit in December after a poor run of form but led a spectacular turnaround which culminated in Saturday's 3-2 play-off win at Met Police and a place in National South.
Skipper Parkinson and vice-captain Sonny Miles led calls for McKimm to continue after he announced he was considering his future.
Parkinson said: "People were writing us off at Christmas when we won one in 10 and the manager nearly left.
"He deserves this promotion as much as anyone.
"He's been fantastic, he's strengthened the squad when we needed it and the boys stuck together.
"We had fans tweeting us saying it's not good enough and the gaffer came in and said he's going to have to have a long hard think.
"Straight away, me being captain and Sonny being vice-captain, we took him aside for a chat in the bar and rung him that week just to make sure he thought about what he was going to do.
"We knew we weren't far away, we were playing well.
"The game that sticks in my mind was Haringey away when we had 32 shots on goal and lost 4-0 and they had five shots and scored four goals.
"When your luck's out your luck's out but I knew it would turn at some point and luckily enough it did in the new year.
"He came in on the Thursday to training and said he wasn't a quitter, which he never has been, and none of the players are either and we're going to turn this around and make sure we achieve what we set out to achieve and that's to make the play-offs.
"He wears his heart on his sleeve, the manager, he's brilliant.
"Everyone loves playing for him.
"Sometimes his persona might come across differently to some people but his heart's in the right place and he's a winner.
"When you're losing, frustration can get the better of anyone but, to be honest, I think he's one of the best up-and-coming managers in Kent and the non-league circuit.
"We're in National South next year but I genuinely think he could go into the National League.
"He and Jay Saunders are probably the two best about, in my opinion.
"They're really good friends, they speak all the time, they deserve good jobs and they deserve all the success they've had."
Parkinson missed the play-off final with an ankle injury but McKimm invited him to speak in the dressing room before kick-off.
He said: "The gaffer said his little bit before the game and then he threw it on me to say something.
"It's hard when you're not playing - you don't always feel a part of it - but the staff and the players have been brilliant.
"I've been out nine weeks now but hopefully I've had a little bit of input and helped them along the way.
"I just said don't throw up an opportunity.
"These opportunities don't come around often and we were 90 minutes away from National South football so it was go out, give your all and what will be, will be.
"It was a lot more nerve-racking than playing but the boys thoroughly deserved it - they were brilliant."
Tonbridge are looking forward to National South football after a five-year absence but Parkinson will have to wait a bit longer.
He's started his rehab but won't be ready for August.
He said: "I definitely won't be back for the start of the season.
"I've ruptured four ankle ligaments and torn my cartilage in my ankle so it's probably easier to break it and come back from that.
"The manager and the two physios have looked after me and even Smudge (Paul Smith) at Maidstone has helped me as well.
"I haven't got a date in mind, I've just got to make sure I'm 100% right before I come back.
"If it takes longer than expected, it takes longer, but hopefully I'll be back October/November time. We'll see."