Kevin Maclaren, right, is the new manager of Chertsey Town
Kevin Maclaren has got ‘big shoes to fill’, but is eager to put his best foot forward as Chertsey Town manager – and reckons promotion would be the perfect fit.
Legendary Non-League boss Dave Anderson called time on his managerial career after the Curfews, with Maclaren as captain, won the FA Vase by beating Cray Valley (PM) 3-1 after extra-time on a memorable May day at Wembley.
It completed a league and cup double for Chertsey, who had already claimed the Combined Counties Premier Division title.
When the dust settled, the Surrey club’s board decided that Maclaren was the man to continue Anderson’s good work. It’s a new challenge as they prepare to line up in the Isthmian South Central Division, but former Hendon stalwart Maclaren isn’t fazed.
The 30-year-old, who plans to step back from playing duties, said: “I thought I was ready for management a couple of years ago even though I’m young. However, I worked with Dave last season and it probably showed I wasn’t quite ready.
“I’m glad I’ve had that experience and now I’m relishing the opportunity. There are big shoes to fill because of the success Dave had, but I feel I’m capable. The board have given me the job and having their backing gives me a lot of confidence.”
Maclaren is convinced the Curfews will be in the promotion shake-up and has high hopes the club’s bulging trophy cabinet will have a new addition.
“I think the other clubs in our division should take us as serious contenders,” he said. “I’m not scared to say I think we will be there or thereabouts. That’s the expectation from myself. The club expect play-offs, but I’m hoping to go one better.”
Maclaren acknowledges, though, that it won’t be easy to rule the roost at Step 4.
“I think it’s going to be a stronger league this season,” he said. “Last season it looked quite weak from the outside and a lot of clubs will look at it as an opportunity if they spend a bit of money.
“Bracknell Town finished second last season and are signing a lot of good players – they will definitely be challenging. Westfield (fifth) had a very strong season and have an up-and-coming manager in Tony Reid.
“You have to respect the teams that have come down and Harlow Town have a difficult surface (3G) to play on – that will work to their advantage. There will be four or five clubs hoping to get out of the division and we are one of them.”
As for his own role in the coming season, Maclaren is keen to focus purely on management.
He said: “With the signings I’ve made, I’m hoping I won’t have to play. I really want to go into the management side full throttle.
“I spoke to a couple of player-managers and they said how difficult it is. I will see how it goes – if I’m needed, fit enough and would be an asset to the team, I’d consider it.
“Ideally, though, I want to give everything to prove myself as a manager. I’m fortunate that I’ve got a very strong management team, too.”
Maclaren was unveiled a trio of new signings at the popular Black Cherry Fair in Chertsey on Saturday and he knows one of them extremely well.
It’s his brother Casey, 32, a midfielder who has arrived from National League South outfit Hampton & Richmond Borough.
“He was one of the strongest midfielders in that league last season,” said Maclaren, who has also swooped for Hanwell Town midfielder Oliver Duffy and Kingstonian midfielder Scott Day.
“There will probably be two more signings by the time the season starts.”
The team were due to take an open-top bus ride through the town at yesterday’s fair, another sign of the club’s recent success.
Maclaren said: “The town has really bought into the football club, we had over 6,000 fans at the Vase final.
“The fair is a good chance for the new players to see what the football club means to the town.”
And while the Curfews prepare for new challenges this season, it’s only natural that Maclaren glances back from time to time at their incredible feats over the last 12 months. .
“It was an amazing season,” he added. “What sticks in my mind is what a special group of players we had. A lot came from a higher level and they believed in what we wanted to achieve.
“Moving forward, I wanted to try to keep as many of them as possible to help us have another successful season.
“It’s also been great to see the growth of the club. When I joined, the club needed massive renovation. A year later we’re getting big crowds, we’ve got a nice playing surface and there’s a real buzz around the club.”
By John Lyons