Club News

Ernie Batten has made steps to confirming his backroom staff for the upcoming 2024/25 season by confirming 5 positions – including the addition of Darren Blackburn as joint Assistant Manager.

Ernie Batten himself will remain as First Team Manager for the new season, but with a slight restructure that sees him supported by both Darren Blackburn and Geoff Record, with their remit being to not only support Ernie during matchdays, but to take the lead on all coaching and training requirements, line manage the goalkeeping coaches and physio and advise on player recruitment.

Darren brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Ites having taken a year out the game for family reasons. A manager at both Hollands & Blair and Sittingbourne FC, and most recently Assistant Manager at Hythe Town, Darren can’t wait to get started.

Upon his appointment he said “I was delighted to be asked to join the management setup by Ernie. After initially speaking to him last summer I followed Sheppey closely and we stayed in regular contact, it’s nice he feels I can bring something to the club that’s already doing so many good things on and off the pitch.

“The club has a great group of players and fantastic supporters who turn out in vast numbers. The extended network around the club, including a well-run youth set up and staff has a great feel to it and felt like a good fit for me.

“I can’t wait to get going with all the players, staff & fans. I already know a lot of the lads well, there’s plenty of quality in the squad for sure and I hope to help add more where Ernie feels we require it. At recent games I’ve had the chance to link in with members of the team and now my role is official, I will be contacting them all soon to catch up with some and introduce myself to those I don’t know so well yet.

“Pre-season is an extremely busy and demanding period for management staff, but I’m ready to hit the ground running with Ernie, Geoff and the team and offer support where I can.

“I’m also looking forward to meeting the supporters too, they are a great bunch who clearly care so much for their club – bring on July and the start of our pre-season campaign.”

Ernie Batten was delighted to get Blackburn on board, “Darren is very well connected at this level and is someone I always felt was a good fit for this club. He likes his teams to play football, he’ll be good with the players and will bring fresh ideas onto the training ground.

“Darren won’t be shy in sharing his ideas with Geoff and I, and I’ll welcome his additional input. Darren is someone who can go on and shine at this football club.”

Also back for another season is popular goalkeeper coach and Isander “Beefy” (Adam Wicketts). Beefy also doubles up as the U23s goalkeeping coach. Last season he played his part in helping coach our keepers to bettering the previous seasons clean sheets record – an improvement of 4. Batten said “Good goalkeeper coaches are hard to come by, and Beefy is top drawer and fitted in really well with us when stepping up from the summer time, I had no hesitation in asking him back.”

Beefy himself added, “I’d like to thank Ernie for the opportunity to work with him and the rest of the first team backroom staff and to carry on where we left off last season and hit the ground running.”

Lee Allen continues as Kit Man, but also takes on a General Manager role, (which is essentially not coaching on the pitch) but helping with the admin side such as assisting the club secretary with player registrations, keeping tabs on budgeting, player liaison, planning, policies and procedures whilst also continue to collate our team stats and analysis data. On Lee’s role Batten added “If you know Lee, he’ll be on your case 24/7 pushing for things to get done, and lives and breathes this club. The admin side of things is something he’s already been doing unofficially the last couple of years”

Lee continues to sit on the Club Committee as Communications Director.

With Lee taking on more of the admin side, Tyler Ross will be more involved with the 1st Team Media, reporting into Lee to aid the clubs target of continuing the growth of all platforms, whilst also getting even more content out to its followers. Tyler was integral in launching the clubs TikTok account in 2023, and has shadowed Lee with creating YouTube/video content aside to what RYG produce very well for the club. Tyler will also support Beefy with training and warming-up our goalkeepers during the new season, and working on the analysis side with all the first team staff. Batten commented, “Tyler is a young talent, who loves the club and being around the 1st team. This has and will continue to be a great experience for him.”

Tyler was glad to be asked to stay on, saying, “I am very much appreciative to Ernie on giving me the opportunity of being part of the coaching team for another season – I can’t wait to get started.”

Ernie Batten also wanted to thank Azza Gray for stepping-up and helping with the first team last season. “Azza came in to help us last season and hasn’t done anything wrong, but I wanted to change it up a bit with this new structure, and I wish Azza all the best. There may still be other potential opportunities where we can look to use Azza, and I hope to speak to him again soon.”

Azza had some words of his own too, “Thank you to everyone who has supported me this season. It’s been a privilege being involved in this team and working alongside everyone. I’ll still be around the club with my youth team so I’m sure I’ll see you all at some point. Again, I can’t thank you all enough for the positive reception the Ites fans have given me all season. The FA cup run will live with me forever – Up the Ites!”

The club will make further announcements on the appointment of the Technical Director and other roles in due course – As well as player announcements and confirmation of pre-season games.

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