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Ely boss reflects on a year to remember




LOOKING GOOD: Brady Stone has turned things around at Ely
LOOKING GOOD: Brady Stone has turned things around at Ely

It is only when it is spelt out to Brady Stone that he begins to truly realise just what Ely City have achieved under his management in 2017.

It is only when it is spelt out to Brady Stone that he begins to truly realise just what Ely City have achieved under his management in 2017.

Promoted back to the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division after a 12-month absence, the Robins finished the season in a healthy 13th position — 14 points above the bottom three.

Not content with that, Stone’s men embarked on a club-record run to the last 16 of the Buildbase FA Vase, reached the final of the Cambridgeshire Invitation Cup and sit a lofty fifth in the table ahead of Wroxham’s visit to the Ellgia Stadium on Saturday (3pm).

“When you list the achievements this year, it is difficult to put it to words. It puts it into perspective,” said the Ely chief.

“There are some really big clubs in this league and in the Vase and for us to not only compete with them, but beat them, is fantastic.

“It has been one of the best years I have ever had in football — certainly as a manager it is the best.”

The good feeling is a far cry from the situation Stone inherited upon his permanent appointment as boss in the summer of 2014.

With no budget to speak of, Ely struggled from the off and it was no great surprise that they finished rock bottom of the Premier Division in 2014/15 with only five wins and 22 points to their name.

It was tough to take at the time, but looking back, Stone can now see it was somewhat of a blessing in disguise.

He kept faith with much of the squad that had been relegated and after adding one or two more local players, a 14-game winning sequence allowed Ely to soar into second spot and automatic promotion.

“We always thought relegation was a possibility in the first season, but we came into the job with a five-year plan,” revealed the boss, whose depleted side were beaten 2-0 at FC Clacton on Saturday, ending a seven-game winning streak in the league.

“We wanted to get back in the Premier Division, sort out the youth section and improve things massively off the pitch.

“To be honest, we were not expecting to go straight back up but that just shows how hard people are working on and off the pitch.

“We are miles ahead of where we expected to be and that is not just down to me — there are so many people doing plenty behind the scenes.

“Whenever the time comes to move on — and hopefully that is not any time soon — I want the club to be in a much better place than when I found it.”

A clear indication of Ely’s rise over the last year comes from the players Stone has been able to attract to the club.

The Reed brothers — Sam and Lee, both of whom have played at a higher level for Bury Town — would almost certainly not have considered pulling on the red shirt two seasons ago, yet the siblings are now regulars in the matchday squad.

Former Histon and Cambridge City midfielder Adie Cambridge had a stint with Ely last term, while Alex Theobald — leading goalscorer in each of the last two campaigns — has rebuffed interest elsewhere to stay put.

Stone says of the squad he has been able to assemble since the turn of the year: “We have some very experienced players now that have played at a top level.

“But there are no egos — they are a very close bunch.

“Nobody is on big money here. They play for the right reasons and with smiles on their faces.

“When big money is being spent it can cause resentment — some players start believing they should get more.

“At Ely, we just want to win for each other.”

And while Stone, as manager, is often given the plaudits, he is well aware that the transformation has been far from a one-man job.

Former Ely player Martin Grey took up the position of assistant manager following Stone’s appointment and the duo have gone on to forge a strong partnership.

“I could not have done any of this without Martin,” said Stone.

“If he stepped down tomorrow, I would have to go as well.

“He is fantastic both on and off the pitch — truth be told he helps to calm me down in the dugout at times!

“He is an Ely lad and loves the club — it means a lot to him.

“He took a little while to accept the job but I am so glad he did.”

* Ely host Histon on Boxing Day (11am).



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