JON TUCKER says he is shocked and angry after being sacked by Pagham less than a year after taking over.
The former Pagham player said when he made the switch from Wick and Barnham to Nyetimber Lane last summer it was a dream come true.
But it turned horribly sour on Monday night when he was told in a phone call from Lions chairman Tony Shea he was no longer wanted. His assistant Dave Berkowitz has also gone.
Former Littlehampton boss Mark Bennett – who guided Golds to the county-league title last season – takes over, with Richie Hellen assisting him.
Pagham sit ninth in the Southern Combination premier after 22 games and although they had lost their last three games – to Chichester, Arundel and Eastbourne United – they had a solid first half of the campaign, winning games in the FA Cup, FA Vase and RUR Cup as well as notching 11 league victories.
Tucker said he believed he was being given time to take the club to a new level – then the bombshell hit.
Have I lost the dressing room? Not judging by the way everyone turns up for training, even when there are no matches because of the weather, nor by the messages I have had from players since this news broke.
“I had a phone call from the chairman and he said they’d had a meeting and decided as results were not going well they were getting rid of me,” Tucker told the Observer.
“The chairman had spoken to me and Dave (Berkowitz, assistant manager) a couple of weeks ago and admitted they’d discussed the situation then – this was after the Chichester game – but said we had their 100 per cent backing.
“I thought I was part of a two to three-year plan but it’s ended after six months. Yes I made mistakes and yes, some of our results were not as good as they should have been – but overall I think I’ve done a good job.
“Have I lost the dressing room? Not judging by the way everyone turns up for training, even when there are no matches because of the weather, nor by the messages I have had from players since this news broke.
“I made a lot of changes to the squad – some worked, some didn’t – but it was an evolving process. You can’t get the perfect squad together overnight.
“Pagham are my local club and I loved it when I got the job. And I have learned so much during my short time as manager.
“But I was deeply shocked when told I was being sacked and that’s now turned to anger over the way I’ve been treated.
“I was already looking ahead to next season and some things I wanted to do differently, like training twice a week instead of once. The club are ambitious and so am I – they were aiming for the Ryman League and I wanted to be part of that.
“I was doing that job for love not money – I didn’t take a penny out of the club. This has left a really sour taste in my mouth.”
Tucker said he’d not had time yet to think about his next move but vowed: “I’ll be back some time, somewhere. I want to manager at another club.”
In a statement, Pagham said it was with reluctance they had parted company with Tucker and Berkowitz.
Chairman Tony Shea and the club’s committee thanked the duo for their hard work on and off the pitch and wished them well.
Pagham said: “As a club, we feel we are not really where we want to be at present and feel a change in management will give the club the boost it needs to move back up the Southern Combination premier-division table.
“After a good start to the season, which saw us advance in both the FA Cup and FA Vase, we feel recent results have not been good enough, with just two league wins in our past ten matches - a run that stretches back to October 24.
“In our past three matches, the first team have not given us the performance levels that we expect, losing 3-0 against Chichester City, 4-0 at home to Arundel and then finally 3-1 against Eastbourne United.
“In Jon’s place, Pagham are delighted to announce the appointment of Mark Bennett as the new first team manager. Mark, who will be assisted by Richie Hellen, takes over with immediate effect having left Littlehampton Town in the summer.
“Mark guided Littlehampton to the Sussex County League Division One title last season, and enjoyed plenty of success at the St. Flora Sportsfield in his four years in charge, before leaving at the end of the 2014-15 season.”
Chairman Shea added: “While we as a club are sad to part company with Jon, we feel the time is right to make a change. The committee felt recent results were not up to expectations we had set in the first half of the season.
“We are delighted to name Mark and Richie as the new management team. Mark enjoyed a fantastic spell in charge of Littlehampton and we look forward to progressing as a club both on and off the pitch.”
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