Player rebellion at Tonbridge Angels leads to mass exodus of Ladies
by Andy Tong | 17th April 2019
THE future of Tonbridge Angels Ladies hangs in the balance after a player rebellion led to all but one of the squad leaving the club.
Apart from one player who has said she is retiring, the others are joining Tunbridge Wells Foresters to launch their inaugural women’s team.
The exodus came after three players had their registrations cancelled by manager Dan Couldridge, who said they had refused to play and had breached a Code of Conduct.
One of the rebel trio told the Times: “He doesn’t listen to the team or the coaches, he ignores suggestions on both tactics and who plays.
“He has a list of who is playing in the first half and the second and doesn’t change that – it doesn’t matter who we’re playing or what’s happening.
“The majority of the team approached him months ago with ideas for training but he didn’t take it on board.
“We were fed up, so we had another meeting – which was structured so it wasn’t offending him and he would take the hint. We all gave our input.”
'He told us he was taking away our registrations because we refused to play, which wasn’t true. I just didn’t put my name down'
The situation came to a head before a ‘crucial’ match against Lewes Foundation on March 10 – their second cup semi-final inside eight days. According to the club, ‘a handful of players refused to take part in the match’.
The Times source said only three players declined to play – one because of work. “Before the second semi-final I decided I didn’t want to play because he had been rude to me,” she said. “He says we broke the Code of Conduct, about respecting the manager and the players. We didn’t do anything wrong.
“Then he told us he was taking away our registrations because we refused to play, which wasn’t true. I just didn’t put my name down to play.
“I’ve played for years, and I’ve never missed a game literally for anything apart from work,” she added.
Couldridge contacted the three players and told them: “As you have made it clear that you are not prepared to play for the team while I am running it, I will cancel your registration.
“I have not made this decision lightly, but I see no other way forward.
“You’ll be free to sign for another team next season once all money is paid up and all kit returned.”
The Ladies management issued a statement on Facebook saying: “Those players were disciplined accordingly. It then became apparent that a much larger group of players were unwilling to take part in further matches under the current management.”
A friendly against Eastbourne which had been arranged for the following Sunday was then cancelled.
Our source said: “All the girls got together and said, ‘we can’t lose three players like that’. So we contacted the club and had a meeting with them. The board told us, ‘we still want you to be a part of it but Dan isn’t going anywhere’.
“Before the friendly against Eastbourne one of us told Dan ‘you haven’t addressed the issues’, and he just decided he’d cancel it.”
But then one of the coaching staff and 13 players decided to play in the friendly without telling Couldridge.
'There are three players in the side who have spent far too much time listening to two players with an axe to grind from another team'
The management said: “It was made clear by the group concerned that the playing squad would not be willing to see out the season under the present management, which left Tonbridge Angels with no other option but to withdraw the team.”
The Ladies have not played since then and have had all their points in South East Counties League deducted.
Couldridge wrote to his squad saying: “As I see it there are three players in the side who have spent far too much time listening to two players with an axe to grind from another team and that is what has caused the toxicity that exists today. That is completely unacceptable. I can see no future for players like that at this club.”
Our source denies that the Maidstone players that have been implicated had no effect upon her decision-making.
The acrimony comes despite the fact that the side have performed very well since they were founded in June 2015.
They were promoted to Division One East last season, won the league cup and the Bexhill Tournament – and playing at Longmead for the first time.