Larkin steps in at Wells as Robbins flies the nest
MIKE Robbins' 19 month love affair with Tunbridge Wells came to end last week with the former boss citing differing ambitions between himself and the club's board as the reason for his departure.
Robbins, despite a difficult end to the 2008/09 campaign, was hopeful of a top four finish and perhaps a cup win along the way next season, but after discussions with the club's board he felt the two parties were on different pages.
Stepping into the hot seat is Robbins' number two Martin Larkin, who at the age of 29 will be the youngest manager in the Kent Premier League.
It promises to be a big challenge for Larkin, but it is one he is more than confident of tackling head on.
"The biggest thing is moving from being part of the management team to actually having the final say," Larkin said. "However, that is not something I am going to have sleepless nights over. Mike was very good at organising and bringing in new players and I'll take that on board. But I want to mould the team in my shape. I will put my stamp on pre-season and team selection."
Under Robbins Tunbridge Wells FC went from being one of the basement boys of the Kent League to a team in with a genuine shout of winning the whole thing. The calendar year of 2008 was one to remember and with players such as Wes Tate, Ross Cable and Gary Clarke in the ranks there was genuine optimism for the future. However, all good things must come to an end.
"Of course I leave with a heavy heart. I loved it at Tunbridge Wells. My son is a Tunbridge Wells fan – he goes to school in a Tunbridge Wells kit. I love Tunbridge Wells and always will. You never know, in years to come I may well make a return but in the current climate the love affair has ended."
He added: "I felt the decision to give me my budget was made too early. I spoke at length with both the out-going and the acting chairmen and it just seemed we were on different pages. I wanted to put together a side that could challenge for the top four, but it has all just fizzled out."
Robbins has plenty of irons in the fire regarding potential employment for the coming season, while his protege is on the lookout for new talent to ply their trade at the Culverden.
"I very much want to go and find the best 16 players within 10 miles of the club," Larkin said.
"I'm going to have to find players in the local area – the budget is not there to do anything else. But there are very, very talented players out there. Tonbridge Angels' youth team has done very, very well and, despite their poor season, there are a lot of decent players down at Crowborough."
Larkin added: "The club is looking to build and that is the main reason it appeals to me. We've got to look at everything from the bottom up – we want to get the kids and community involved. In terms of the first team, I know that if we can keep certain players together there is no reason why we can't have a good year."