Darren Blackburn steps down as Hollands & Blair boss: I hope you understand this was an extremely emotional decision that I didn’t take lightly but with the clubs best interests at heart

Tuesday 12th March 2019

DARREN BLACKBURN says he has resigned from the hot-seat at Hollands & Blair on Sunday with the clubs best interests at heart.

The Gillingham-based side went down to a 3-2 home defeat to Deal Town on Saturday, while Rusthall’s 2-0 win at Croydon in the bottom-of-the-table clash at Croydon Sports Arena puts James Anderson’s side above them in the pecking order in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division relegation dog-fight.

Croydon remain favourites for one of the two relegation spots as they are rooted on seven points with 10 games remaining.  Hollands & Blair have 16 points with 11 games left.

Rusthall are now out of the drop zone having collected 17 points thanks to an unbeaten run of five games and picking up 11 points during this spell of form.

The Rustics are now four points adrift of Punjab United, whom are now looking over their shoulder with a spell of four games without a win.

Following on from the club statement released on Sunday regarding my resignation, I just wanted to sincerely thank Hollands & Blair FC for the opportunity to manage the first team this season,” said Blackburn.

“The job poses plenty of unforeseen challenges and although I overcame  many of them, for a number of reasons it hasn’t worked out as I’d either hoped or planned and I wasn’t able to either meet the clubs or more importantly my own expectations on this occasion unfortunately.

“I apologise to those that have supported me so fiercely in my first attempt at management and hope you understand this was an extremely emotional decision that I didn’t take lightly but with the clubs best interests at heart.

“The squad is finally in good shape now, as we proved against Sheppey two weeks ago and by reaching the Kent Senior Trophy Semi-Finals.

“There are games in hand and there is still time for any further players needed to be recruited over the next couple of weeks.

“Obviously I’m bitterly disappointed as like most managers plans were already underway for recruitment next season and overall the season showed promise at times and with a little more luck, we should be more than comfortable at this stage of the season.

“Despite placing together a very talented squad in recent weeks, due to a number of factors, results remained inconsistent and it was time for one new voice in the dressing room that players may react better to in order to focus minds and avoid confusion for the remaining fixtures.

“Before any conspiracy theories start, it was one of my parting wishes for Paul Piggott to take charge of the remaining games and he has my full backing.

“Knowing my boys and having had the pleasure to play for Paul and be his number two previously at this important transitional period, he was my number one choice.

“The experience that I have gained in such a challenging season has been invaluable and I hope it will stand me in good stead for future roles as and when opportunities present themselves.

“The Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division is a fantastic league and I’ve enjoyed every difficult minute of it. It’s extremely competitive and a credit to non-league football.

“It would be remiss of me not to mention the phenomenal work of Laurence Plummer at our club.  The man is a walking oracle of all things SCEFL and I simply couldn’t have lasted as long as I did without his fantastic support. Thank you Plum.

“McNealy Brown, the clubs sponsor this season, have been our biggest triumph and to receive personal text messages from the owner has been an unexpected but much needed boost at times.

“Finally, I wish all the great players that I’ve met and worked with this season the very best for the remaining games regardless of who you play for and make the plea that the players I leave behind continue to believe in yourselves like I do and everyone connected to Hollands & Blair FC get behind Paul Piggott and the boys and give them all the support that you’ve offered me and if you can even more for these vital 11 games.”

Co-chairman Piggott’s first game back in the Darland Avenue hot-seat is a trip to tenth-placed AFC Croydon Athletic on Saturday, 16 March (15:00).

Blackburn, who replaced Clint Gooding in the summer, was in charge of 34 games in all competitions.  The club won seven and lost 23 during his tenure.

Visit Hollands & Blair’s website: www.hollandsandblair.co.uk