It’s a Kent derby this weekend as The Gate are coming to town. Margate are a side that in recent years have variously been described as boom and bust, or a yo-yo club, with rather opaque finances. A Kent equivalent of those Essex teams where a local big noise turns up with a bundle of surplus cash which they need to move on rather quickly, only to disappear in a puff of used car smoke or a cloud of white powder a year or two later, and they seem to be coming back once again, financially at least.
This time around the bounce back from the last moneybags to disappear over the hill includes the laying of an expensive plastic pitch, and the news that they have found the wherewithal to buy their ground from the Council. One hopes for the loyal fan that this might be the prelude to a period of stability and growth, and not the site of another out of town Asda. But if you are a loyal fan do you really care if Buster Bloodvessel is a director, or about a bit of grandstanding by The Libertines, as long the team keeps bouncing back, butter side up? Face, bovvered?
On the pitch Margate had a recent spell in the Conference South, although they were relegated after two seasons, and this season have spluttered along, occasionally catching fire, but generally off the pace and now drifting precariously towards the lower reaches of the league table.
Frannie Collin, one of the best strikers to pull on a Tonbridge Angels shirt in recent years, still struts his stuff for the team. He is probably not playing on Saturday due to injury but if he does it will, of course, produce the catcalls from the Angels fans about how fat, old, and useless he is, while hoping all the while that he doesn’t get a free kick 20 yards out on the left, because they know it will end up top corner of the goal. Sid Sollis, another Angels player of more recent vintage is also becoming a regular starter for Margate. He could have been as good as Collin if his teenage ego had been better managed, but unfortunately he has drifted around various lower level Kent teams on loan; a wasted talent thus far, but he still has time. Maybe he’ll be motivated to give his old club a reminder of what he is capable of.
Coming in to this game Tonbridge had a wasted journey to Lewes on Wednesday, the match abandoned in monsoon conditions, with the Angels looking the better side. They stay unbeaten in 2019, in 8th place, but only 2 points off 3rd and with a couple of games in hand on those around them. Their main worry will be the lack of experienced cover which resulted in the call up for two academy players for the game at Lewes. One thing the club has not got right in recent years is a consistent pipeline of new players, as it has chopped and changed Under 21, Under 23, Reserve and Academy structures. Hopefully the latest Under 19 Academy set up, under the highly regarded Tom Parkinson and Jamie Coyle, will finally deliver what they need.
Margate had a tough midweek match against Dorking which they lost 1-0, including a red card, stretching a bad run to 10 games without a win, something which the Angels experienced through November and December but have put behind them. The upshot has been a managerial change at Margate on Thursday, with the return of Jay Saunders to try and spark a change in fortune. Or to spend a fortune. Tonbridge must have been very close to a similar move only a few weeks ago but didn’t blink, and have bounced back.
If it carries on this way for Margate they will be very bovvered, especially as they are the lowest scorers in the league and only 5 points off the relegation zone. As for the Angels, they’ll be very happy with more of the same, because this season the team spirit means there’s no keeping them down.
Walk out music for our old friend Francois……