Football: Non-League Notebook: Chapple pursues five-year plan

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The Independent Online
THIS IS an important season for Kingstonian, the holders of the FA Umbro Trophy. By next May supporters of the Surrey side will have a better idea about whether the Ks want to be a relatively successful non- League outfit - or a club with serious ambitions of Football League status.

What the fans do know is that the Kingstonian board has put its faith in manager Geoff Chapple, who signed a new five-year contract last week. In his two years with the club so far, he has taken them into the Nationwide Conference and then to Wembley, where they won the Trophy in May.

Chapple also enjoyed plenty of success in the Trophy and the FA Cup with his previous club, Woking. When it was put to him that it was about time he started winning leagues again, he replied: "I'm glad you said `again'. As well as taking Kingstonian up, I got Woking from Division Two South of the Isthmian League to the Conference, so we must have won some leagues somewhere along the way!"

Chapple knows, however, that steering Kingstonian into the Third Division will be his toughest challenge yet. "The Conference is the most difficult league to win," he said. "There are a lot of quality sides and only one team can go up. Until we can change that, and moves are afoot [he is also on the Conference management committee], it is a very hard task to gain promotion.

"But we have to balance what we're doing on the pitch with what needs to be done off the field," Chapple added. "There's a lot of work to do on the stadium to get it ready for the Football League, and it has to be done by April. It will cost around pounds 500,000."

This summer, though, the emphasis was on team-building. The midfielder Phil Wingfield has returned from Farnborough Town for his third spell at the club and the promising wing-back Luke Basford has arrived from Bristol Rovers. Chapple has also signed the striker Dwight Marshall, who was Plymouth Argyle's top scorer last season.

"Marshall is a very clever player," Chapple enthused. "He knows exactly where his marker is, and he won't be rushed into anything." The 33-year- old former Luton Town forward has an equally experienced striking partner: the 36-year-old ex-Tottenham man David Leworthy. He has grabbed six goals, including a hat-trick against Dover last week, in just three starts this term to head the Conference goalscoring chart.

Asked what he thought his team, who have won two and lost two of their first four Conference games, might achieve by the end of his five-year contract, Chapple said: "I haven't got my crystal ball, but the potential is there. I've got myself into the job here, and I feel comfortable now.

"I won't rest on my laurels, though. I want to get into the Football League, and I always have done. The quicker I do it, the quicker I can get rid of my cup-winning tag!"