Kirkley boss Paul Tong is taking nothing for granted
KIRKLEY & Pakefield manager Paul Tong is taking nothing for granted in his side’s bid to stave off the threat of relegation from the Ridgeons League Premier Division.
The Royals are six points clear of third-from-bottom Wivenhoe Town and have a game in hand on the Dragons, who have only five matches remaining.
Newmarket Town were officially relegated last Saturday, and will join Great Yarmouth Town in Division One next season, but Kirkley remain one of three teams – along with Walsham-le-Willows and Felixstowe & Walton United – who could drop into the bottom three.
Tong said: “We are not safe yet – far from it. I still believe we will stay up, which I have said all along, but there will be ups and downs before the end of the season.”
The former Great Yarmouth Town and Diss Town manager took over at Walmer Road in September, following the resignation of Jon Reynolds due to work commitments.
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With a largely young and inexperienced side, Tong, who paid tribute to backroom staff – assistant manager Marty Hubble, first-team coach Robbie Horton, right-hand man Ian Griffin and Mike Guymer, who looks after the administration – has done well so far to keep Kirkley above the drop zone.
But whether he remains at the club next season is still open to question, although he hinted he would be keen to stay.
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“I came here to try to keep the club up. Maybe the club are waiting to see if we do stay up before deciding what happens next season.
“Everybody has made me welcome and I have really enjoyed it. We have a really young squad but the camaraderie has been brilliant. The players have made it enjoyable – it is a pleasure to work with these young players.
“What they have experienced in the last two months is tough for young players. Any youngster can come into a winning side, but to fight relegation is no easy matter.”
Left back Gabrial Mansbridge, who is just 16, was the latest youngster to roll off the Kirkley & Pakefield production line, when he made his debut in last Saturday’s 2-1 win against relegation rivals Felixstowe.
Goalkeeper Jordan Smith, who is 17, has established himself as first choice this season in a side that also contains teenagers such as Ryan Crisp and Kyle Baker.
Crisp was on trial at Ipswich Town this season, but was not taken on by the npower Championship club, and Tong said: “He is a quality player – their loss is our gain, although it is good that a club like Ipswich are looking at young players in our league.”