With player comings and goings having been headline news at the Kuflink Stadium over the past few days, Garry Hill paid tribute to former player of the year Kenny Clark and explained why the defender took the chance to cross the river.
“Kenny Clark is a top professional player on and off the pitch,” Hill said. “Great attitude in every way or form and very, very loyal, very supportive of his teammates. He thought a great deal of Ebbsfleet United Football Club. It was a big decision for Kenny, there was no secret.”
The Fleet boss was up front with Clark regarding Dagenham’s interest and the move took shape from there.
“Dagenham came in and made an enquiry and you have to let players know,” Hill said. “You have to be honest with them in respect of an enquiry. I wouldn’t want a player to hear somewhere down the line, at a later date, that all of a sudden a football club has come in for him and he hasn’t been informed. Kenny then asked could he speak to Dagenham. All credit to the board in letting Kenny have that opportunity. He was in a situation where security, a baby coming – even though we’d done a lot of things at the football club over the past two weeks – he still had to have a long, hard think about it. He has had this calf problem, he hasn’t been 100% fit and he’s talked to them and come back with the conclusion that he feels for his family and for his football, that a new chapter’s got to begin at Dagenham. I wish him all the best and I know all Ebbsfleet United fans do.”
Once the ball was rolling on a move away from the Fleet for Clark, his manager weighed up the makeup of his squad and concluded it was workable for both parties.
“I look at it another way,” he said. “I have to assess the squad. I’ve got to take into consideration we’ve got four centre halves who can fit in there, whether it’s Dave Winfield or Jack King or Sam Magri or Chris Bush, there’s four there. Whatever way you look at it, we had five centre halves at the club. We’ve got 10 midfield players. And also we’ve got two forwards. So we’ve got to try and get a balance in that squad to work within a structure financially which is right for the football club and the stability and well-being of the football club going forward. A balance in your squad of defenders, midfielders and forwards. So that’s where we are now. We’d got 10 midfield players: six wide players and four central players. Something has to give one way or another and as you’re aware Sean Shields has gone out on loan to Maidstone with a view of going there.”
And Hill explained that moves to bring players in to reshape the squad, such as Cody McDonald, could only be effected by freeing up budget elsewhere.
“We’re fully aware that Cody hasn’t been attached to any club,” Hill said of his signing. “Cody’s a little bit behind with his fitness at the moment, we’re aware of that. He’s been training with us and you can see if he gets the opportunities round the box, he is a good finisher. We’ve got a situation where we’ve only got Michael Cheek and Danny Kedwell. So an opportunity to fetch a player with the experience of Cody McDonald going forward to the end of the season gives us an opportunity to monitor the situation. In just over two and a half weeks, seven people have gone away and only one’s come in. Some people have turned around and said, ‘Wow, Cody McDonald’s come in, I thought Ebbsfleet were having trouble’ – but we’re balancing the books for the well-being of the football club long-term.”
And Hill reiterated that the situation at the club, painful as it is, has necessitated a trimming of the squad so that he can work within a sustainable budget going forward.
“You don’t change things for the sake of changing things,” he reinforced. “I’ve always said openly and it’s been publicised that we have to cut our numbers. We’ve got too many players at the club, or we had too many at the football club, and too many staff. Certain things have gone on, too many players, too many staff in my opinion. If that’s been given the green light in the past, that’s nothing to do with me. Where I am and where we are going forward, me and Ian Hendon are fully aware that we have to make sure – and I’m sure everyone connected with Ebbsfleet United wants stability of the club – that we’re playing in a structure where it’s affordable. And that’s where we’re going.”