“We will be looking for the right characters and giving opportunities to local players.”
Paul Gates, Under 23s Joint Manager
The pair, who led Town’s Under 18s to the Premier South title unbeaten last season, beat stiff competition from an impressive shortlist of applicants after a series of interviews.
Their proven ability to find and develop young talent – including Rolando Onu, Harry Day, Joe Muddiman, Will Risdon, who have all featured in the first team squad this season – was key to landing them the role.
Their first task will be to hold trials for the Under 23s, who will play in the Bostik Development League and feed players into the first team as part of the new structure promoting youth.
First team striker Carl Rook – who has been part of the club’s coaching team for two seasons - will take over from the pair as Under 18s manager next season.
Delighted Paul said: “After seven years of managing successful sides in the Kent Youth League, this is the perfect challenge for us to test ourselves and help develop players capable of playing in the first team.
“We will be looking for the right characters and giving opportunities to local players.
“The first team managers have shown that they are prepared to put faith in youth, and that makes this the ideal club for any youngster ambitious to become a semi-professional footballer.
“They know that if they come here and are good enough, they will get opportunities to play at Bostik level that many clubs won’t give them.”
Keith added: "I'm looking forward to the challenge of producing players who can genuinely stake a claim for first team football.
"We will be looking for players who know how to apply their technical ability in the correct way in match situations and also understand what the word 'team' means."
The Under 23s have been reintroduced to bridge the gap between the Under 18s and the first team to strengthen the club's structure.
The team will young players the chance to gain experience in men's football at Bostik level to prepare them for the physical and technical challenges of the semi-professional game.
Director of Youth Brian Flynn said the Under 18s and Under 23s management teams would work closely with first team managers Phil Miles and Danny Chapman next season.
He added: “There were some very strong candidates but Paul and Keith’s proven ability to seek out and bring on talent stood out and fitted the brief perfectly.
“They are totally committed to the club, understand the philosophy and have shown year after year that they can make quality players even better.
“The fact that three of their first-year Under 18s have been part of the first team squad this season, and that Rolando has actually scored for them, shows that they are ideal.
“There has been a lot of change in a short period at the club, but I’m already excited for what next season will bring.”
Details of Under 23s trials will be announced shortly. In the meantime, players can reach Paul Gates on 07970 678656.
Updated 12:10 - 7 May 2019 by Brian Flynn