New coach says Conference is within reach

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FORMER Leyton Orient player and now AFC Sudbury’s new first team coach Barry Lakin believes everything at the club is geared up to compete in the Conference South.

The 38-year-old, who was instrumental in setting up Chelmsford City’s full-time academy, got his first taste of seeing the impressive MEL Group Stadium facilities on a matchday on Saturday and believes the club is going places.

Lakin has already backed up his words to the Free Press about using his contacts in the game to bring in young professional players after the promising Orient pair of defender Joe O’Donoghue and forward Afolabi Obafemi joined on loan this week.

And AFC fans, who turned out in number to watch their side narrowly lose 2-1 to fellow promotion candidates Grays Athletic despite playing 45 minutes with 10 men, can expect more professionals learning their trade at Sudbury under ex-Heybridge Swifts asistant manager Lakin.

“I still have a lot of contacts in the pro game I can ring up and speak to,” he said. “Although we are still a step four football club, we have the set-up and make-up of a Conference South club and you can actually sell that to get some young pros in here and give them an experience of a real football game.”

Asked if AFC could form links with professional clubs on their doorstep to help both parties, he said: “One hundred per cent. We have Colchester, I speak to Tony Hume the youth team manager there, I am friends with Joe Dunne the first team assistant manager and we still get on well, so potentially we have a great set-up here.”

But developing their own players is still high on Lakin’s agenda at his new club.

“The key to it now I think, especially in non-League football with education and funding, is to create a scholarship scheme to have full-time apprentices as when I was 16.

“We have got the facilities here and the make-up to be able to do that here and to be able to attract good young players.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day though and as long as we are moving in the right direction with similar goals it is very exciting times.”

Lakin, who left Heybridge for personal reasons with a new baby on the way, played 54 times for League One side Leyton Orient between 1992 and 1996. He has also experienced management at Dr Martens Southern side Erith and Belvedere and taking in his spell as assistant manager at Braintree Town, has coached or managed current AFC first teamers Danny Gay, Russell Pond, Michael Shinn, James Baker, Dave Wareham and Chris Bryan already.

Meanwhile, manager Chris Tracey has declared Saturday’s trip to Harlow Town as a ‘must-win’ game with AFC hoping Tilbury drop points against Leiston on the same day, before they host bogey side Soham Town Rangers on Easter Monday (both 3pm).