FORMER Bromsgrove Sporting title-winner Paul Smith and ex-Stafford Rangers and Rushall Olympic boss Neil Kitching are being linked with the vacant role as Stratford Town manager.
Both Smith and Kitching were among the contenders to replace Carl Adams as Town chief in the summer when his six-year reign came to an end before Darren Byfield was appointed.
However, with former Aston Villa and Jamaica striker Byfield having resigned after just six games in charge, the footballing grapevine has suggested Smith and Kitching could both be considered once more.
Both are available although the Observer understands they have not been contacted by Stratford’s hierarchy.
Smith stepped down as Highgate United joint manager earlier this week but rumours suggesting he was poised to take over at Stratford are wide of the mark.
Smith led Bromsgrove to the Midland League Division One title as ‘Invincibles’ before taking them to the top of the Premier Division before stepping down after a boardroom fall-out last February and then joined Gate to work alongside chairman Ashley Pulisciano in the summer. After talks, both felt it was better to have a solo boss.
Smith says his Highgate experience has given him back his football mojo and he is keen to return as a No 1 again.
“Stratford is a well-run club and it would be a great job for someone but I’ve had no contact with Stratford Town’s board or directors about being manager,” he said.
Kitching, who led Stafford to promotion and county cup successes in four years at Marston Road, is a former Stratford player and has had managerial experience at the level. He played for Town under Lennie Derby and Martin Sockett when they were regular Midland Alliance title contenders a decade ago.
Caretaker boss Steve Walker, who was Byfield’s No 2, and coach Nathan Marsh are again expected to be in charge on Saturday when Town, with one win this season, entertain winless basement side Bedworth United in the Evo-Stik South Premier Central at the Arden Garages Stadium.
The following Saturday, Stratford now face second-from-bottom Redditch United in a rearranged league fixture at Knights Lane. Both teams had faced a fixture-free Saturday having been knocked out of the FA Cup – Redditch losing to Adams’ Rugby Town.
Walker admitted he was ‘devastated’ to see Stratford exit the FA Cup at their first hurdle last weekend when, having played for almost an hour with ten men after having recent signing Cody Fisher sent off, they bowed out to a late goal at home to Alvechurch.
Fisher was red-carded for a challenge on Josh Ezewele and Walker felt that was the turning point. Even so, Stratford had their chances, Mike Taylor being denied by keeper Matt Sergeant one-on-one in their best chance while Sergeant blocked a Jordan Williams volley from close-range.
The only goal came on 78 minutes when Church striker Aaron Lloyd smashed home past on-loan keeper Ross Etheridge, making his debut in place of the injured Nathan Vaughan, after the defence failed to clear a cross.
“I thought we were the better side for long periods of the game and then they score the winner with their only shot on target,” Walker told fans website STISA.
“The sending-off was decisive as it changed the game and made it even more difficult for us but I couldn’t have asked more of our lads. Every one of them gave 100 per cent-plus and I’m extremely proud of all of them.”
Meanwhile, Byfield could become a contender for a quick return to football after Tamworth, one of his former clubs, began their search for a new boss.
Mike Fowler stepped down as manager after the Lambs’ FA Cup exit at Hednesford and Byfield has a fond connection with Tamworth, having been a player and player-coach under former boss Dale Belford when they were in the Conference.
Kitching is also likely to be among the favourites for the post.