Jamie Howell leaves Bognor for Eastbourne Borough admitting: It was a difficult decision.
The manager has left Rocks fans gutted and, largely, surprised after his move to the other side of Sussex was confirmed less than 48 hours after Bognor secured promotion via the Ryman League play-offs.
Howell told the Bognor Observer he had made his mind up to move on before knowing whether the club would achieve promotion.
He said he wanted to thank Jack Pearce, Darin Killpartrick, the backroom staff, players, fans and everyone else at the club for the support he’d had from them in eight years as joint manager and manager at the Lane, which he said he would miss tremendously.
“It was a very, very difficult decision,” he said today. “I’ve had 20 years at Bognor as player, coach, joint manager and manager.
“It’s been an integral part not just of my football career but of my life. I shall miss it and the people involved in it.
“But I’m ambitious and felt I needed a new chapter - a new challenge. It’s hard to get a job in football management and sometimes you have to take a good opportunity that comes along.
“I’ve not had a chance to say all my goodbyes yet but I’m delighted the club got promoted before I left.
“I can’t thank Jack and Dabba enough for all their hard work and friendship. I think apart from my immediate family Jack is the most influential person in my life.
“But this new challenge comes at the right time for me and my family.
“I think I’d made my mind up before we knew if we were going to get promoted.
“Last season, when we lost in the play-offs, left us all very tired and down and I didn’t want to go then. I didn’t want to leave the club in a bad way. To get the club promoted and then leave means you are going out on a high.
“It would have killed me not to get them up and then leave.
“It’s not been just a job. Bognor is not just a football club. To leave the players behind is hard – there has been tears from me. But I didn’t want to leave it too long and then go at the wrong time.
“Monday was a very strange day because I pretty much knew whatever the result, it was my last game as manager. Happily we got it done.
“The players and supporters have been brilliant to me in all my time here. I wanted to savour every last moment on Monday.
“The club is in a great state and the job I am leaving is a great one for somebody.
“For me going to Eastbourne will be like going into a new class at school or a new office to work. I’m looking forward to getting started.
“In my time at Bognor I’d had one firm offer to leave before now, but Dabba said to me he didn’t think it was right for me, and he was right. That was three or four years ago.”
Howell said Monday’s play-off win over Dulwich - opponents he has come to know and respect in his Bognor years - was the high point of his eight years.
He added: “I didn’t want to outstay my welcome! There’s a right way and a wrong way to leave a football club and I hope I have done it the right way.
“I hope to come back to see everyone and to watch Bognor play occasionally and obviously I’ll be back with Eastbourne - it’s bound to be the first game of next season.”
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