Hakan Hayrettin reckons Maidstone United’s FA Cup clash with Torquay United is the perfect fuel for their ambition to return to Non-League’s top tier.
After several years of success, the Kent club were relegated back to the National League South last season.
Hayrettin, who is first team coach along with head of football John Still, arrived at the back end of the campaign but were unable to keep them up.
They’re aiming to mastermind an instant return but that will be put on hold today when Gary Johnson brings his National League Torquay United to the Gallagher Stadium.
The 49-year-old told last Sunday’s edition of The Non-League Paper: “Big game … I played for Gary Johnson at Cambridge. He was a very good coach – tactically and technically. It was his first job in his managerial career and I’ve got a lot of time for him.
“It’s at home and, at home, you can beat anyone. We’re looking forward to it because we miss the league above – and the one above that because we worked in it at Luton – but we’re at a good football club and we’re building.
“When me and John came in, the first thing we needed to do was build the foundations and that’s what we’re doing.”
Hayrettin stood down as Braintree Town boss in January to team up with Still. Together, they undertook a complete overhaul of the Stones’ squad in the summer.
Despite a slow start, they had lost just three outings in 17 games ahead of today’s tie. But the former Thurrock, Grays and Braintree boss also knows the value of a good FA Cup run.
“I’ve got fantastic memories of the FA Cup as a player and manager,” added Hayrettin, who was part of Still’s coaching staff when Luton were promoted to League Two.
“At Braintree we played Millwall in the first round proper. We lost 5-2 but we went in front. We’d had to make last-minute changes at the back because we had some injuries but Cheeky (Michael Cheek) scored an unbelievable goal.
“But, for us, now at Maidstone, it’s a good club. We’re trying to do it the right way. We know what we’ve got to do.
“The rebuild was big but we want to get promoted don’t we? Let’s make no bones about that. But Rome wasn’t built in a day – we’re heading in the right direction.”