By Matt Badcock
Maidstone United captain Lee Worgan says he is devastated Jay Saunders’ Stones fairytale is over – and says the whole squad shoulder the responsibility.
Saunders has long secured his status in club history having taken over at his boyhood club in 2011 when they were in Step 4 before masterminding three promotions in four seasons to take them to Non-League’s top tier.
The 39-year-old, who also oversaw FA Cup success in his time when they knocked out Stevenage on live TV in 2014, turned down the chance to manage League Two Macclesfield Town in the summer and often spoke of his dream to lead the Stones there himself.
He also told The NLP last week how he felt his side had a platform to build on this season but warned against inconsistency in a young squad that, bar three players, is 24 and under.
But back-to-back defeats over the Bank Holiday weekend to Maidenhead United and Boreham Wood led to a mutual parting of ways.
The players were informed by Saunders himself with assistant manager Steve Watt – who played for the former boss in defence when they won Step 3 – taking over caretaker duties. And Worgan says the squad must look at themselves.
“When he told me I was gutted because of the amount of time I’ve spent with him and the success I’ve had with him,” he said.
“He rang some of the lads and asked me to put him into the WhatsApp group because he was struggling to get hold of a few. They were probably thinking he was trying to get us in on Wednesday, which is our day off!
“He said his piece in the WhatsApp group and then followed it up be speaking to all the boys. It’s commendable to who he is as a man and a manager.
“When the manager leaves after seven games, the players have got to look at themselves. Could we have collectively all done a little bit more?
“It wasn’t performances that were letting us down, it was the little mistakes we kept getting punished for. We were 2-1 up at Maidenhead, we get a third that was chalked off and when you look back on video it shouldn’t have been. You probably win that game, take the momentum into the Boreham Wood game and we’re not having this conversation.
“But it’s football, it has a strange way of destroying fairytales and it seems to have done that. I have no doubt he will have League offers or from clubs in our league because as a manager he’s brilliant.
“The directors have put a lot of money in and done a lot for the club, it’s just a decision they wanted to make and I think Jay was in agreement. It’s sad.”
Worgan, the longest-serving player at the club who hasn’t missed a league game since joining from Tonbridge Angels and playing his part in the last three promotions, admits the mood was downbeat at training on Thursday.
But he’s realistic to know the squad have to quickly bounce back from the disappointment.
“Sometimes in situations like this it can be very easy for players to use it as an excuse for their own poor performances,” Worgan said.
“It can’t be like that. You’ve got to put performances in for him, the supporters and, importantly, for themselves and get some points on the board.”
*This article originally featured in The @NonLeaguePaper which is available every Sunday and Monday