It might be the cliché to end all cliches, but every footballer in England dreams of playing at Wembley and for Chertsey Town’s player-manager, that ambition has been ticked off the list.
Kevin Maclaren, a former Chelsea and Fulham trainee who also played for south west London clubs Tooting and Mitcham and Kingstonian, had the pleasure of playing at Wembley in the FA Vase final last year.
Chertsey Town’s Wembley trip saw them beat Cray Valley Paper Mills 3-1 after extra time to claim the trophy in May 2019, and Maclaren loved the experience.
He said: “Everything you watched on TV as a kid to do with the FA Cup, seeing yourselves in the programmes and up on the scoreboards, that stuff will just live with us forever.
“The 7000 Chertsey fans, as you walked out the tunnel and looked to see all them blue and white flags across the other side of the pitch, definitely as a player that was the pinnacle of my career.”
Maclaren also tasted victory in the league, winning the Combined Counties Premier Division, the fifth step of non-league, before taking over from boss Dave Anderson as player-manager.
Maclaren explained: “To be honest with you it’s not a role I really want to do. It is quite difficult to play and manage, I really want to step into the management side of things.
“The good thing is the last couple of games I’ve been injured and haven’t played we’ve been brilliant, so I feel like now could be a time for me to start playing less.”
These days this type of boss is few and far between. Gianluca Vialli, Glenn Hoddle and Ruud Gullit all did it at Chelsea in the 1990s, but in recent years Vincent Kompany is the only big name that springs to mind.
A former London cabbie who now works as a builder, Maclaren is breaking the mould, and when last season was postponed, Chertsey were in the Isthmian League South Central play offs and hadn’t lost a game in over two months.
Central to such success is the fact Maclaren took over a squad with a winning mentality, despite the higher level of competition, and has always carried himself professionally whilst in Surrey.
He added: “When I come down to Chertsey I always saw myself as a player-coach. I never considered myself one of the lads. I was taking training; I was heavily involved in the management meetings before games.
“It’s a really competitive league, but we are capable. We showed that last season with the form in the second half of the season, so I’m confident we can go one better than play-offs, but play-offs at a minimum for me.”
Despite only being 31 it’s been a successful management career for Kevin Maclaren, and it’ll be exciting to see where his path will lead.
Featured image credit: Kevin Maclaren and Chertsey Town Flickr