Last week I caught up with Rusthall Reserves manager Lee Chambers whose side play just two divisions below their first team in the Kent County Football League Division One to find how the current situation affected their club being inside what was then a Tier 3 area:
TK: How has it been at Rusthall FC this month given the excitement of lockdown lifting tempered by Kent going into Tier 3 (at the time of interviewing) meaning no competitive football?
LC: The vibe around the club has been pretty positive as the lads were excited to return to training and have a small amount of normality back in their lives. It’s been a stop start season so far and with competitive football on hold at the moment due to the tier restrictions we had lined up a couple of friendlies to keep the lads fitness ticking over.
TK: As a club are you hopeful that football in Kent will re-start in the New Year?
LC: It’s a real difficult one in as much as a club we want football to return. It needs to be safe to do so before Xmas I think was too much of an ask but fingers crossed in early January we can all return safely.
TK: Rusthall are very much a club who are growing bigger in West Kent, how big is the club currently?
LC: The club has always been a family club with a good reputation and is definitely growing much bigger. The junior set-up has teams from Under 7 right up to Under 18 and has three close knit senior sides that work the system very well giving a great pathway right through the club.
TK: Do you feel with all the developments around the ground over the last few years makes it an easier sell to new players?
LC: The facilities now are fantastic at the Jockey Farm Stadium. All the thanks must go to the committee who work tirelessly all year round to maintain and improve the ground.
These facilities have certainly helped the club attract players and has also increased our fan base; over the last few seasons the numbers have really rocketed through the turnstiles.
TK: Do you find a lot of those also support yourself and the team at reserve level?
LC: A lot of our fans are supporting the reserve team when the first team are away. With the two teams only separated between two divisions the support has been fantastic and hopefully we have given them some entertaining football to watch.
TK: You’ve had quite a bit of success at reserve team level, have you found that it has encouraged players to push harder to make the first team?
LC: Since joining the club we set our own targets and one of those was to close the gap between the reserves and the first team to make the transition for the players an easier task.
We have been fortunate enough to gain some success along the way which has been a credit to the lads who have knuckled down to achieve what they have. We have seen players make the step up and hold their own over the last two seasons and hopefully that will continue.
TK: Has the current pandemic we’re experiencing affected the future plans for the club?
LC: The club is constantly looking to keep moving forward on and off the pitch and with the current pandemic like all clubs the lack of money coming in with no competitive football does hit you hard.
Hopefully though we are getting closer every day to a return to football and we can concentrate on moving forward.
TK: Has there been much in the way of financial help for the club as a whole?
LC: There has been support and help out there over this difficult time but I leave that side of things to the committee!
TK: Given the stop start nature to this season, do you think we will see some big changes to the footballing landscape whether we finish this current campaign or not?
LC: I really do hope that we can finish this season knowing last season had to stop in March. At all levels players have missed out on so much football and most leagues I believe will be given an extension to hopefully get games completed.
TK: Finally, how far can you yourself go ambition wise in the future?
LC: So for me I just want to keep moving forwards and improve as a coach and a manager and work up the footballing ladder. You are always learning all the time and over the last couple of years I’ve really pushed myself and will continue to do so to keep improving.