Jack Pearce paid tribute to departing Rocks coach Darin Killpartrick and admitted: He will be a very tough act to follow.
The Rocks manager revealed he talked Killpartrick into seeing out the season when he approached him in the autumn and said he was thinking of quitting. But he said he understood his wish to move on now.
Pearce said: “Dabba came to me around October before we went on our real bad run and said he thought it was time after 18 years to have a sabbatical away from the club.
“He’s got a young child, a family to look after, his college job and the England Colleges role and this. I talked him into staying until the end of the season, and then he came to me three or four weeks ago and said he’d made his mind up – he was going to take a sabbatical.
“I said ‘That’s fine, no problem, I’m not going to try to talk you out of it’ – because I had talked him out of it in October, November.
“All I can say is Dabba is one of my heroes in terms of what he’s done in his football philsophy.
“When he played he could be a bit of a pain because when he kicked the ball down the line the bloke in the crowd had to head it on for him!
“As a player he had great heart and great commitment. He’s given up a lot, as you have to if you want to coach to the level Dabba has reached. He’s spent many, many, many hours and spent lots and lots and lots of money and he’s turned himself into a first-class coach. He’s got good principles and he’s given me 18 years of stirling service without much financial reward.
“He will be majorly missed by everyone at the club. But football clubs move on. I shall go one day and probably most of our supporters would prefer it to be me than him. Unfortunately that’s not to be at this moment in time.
“I can assure them that if Dabba’s telling me the truth it’s got nothing to do with me being the manager. But it is a sad day for the club. He’s been excellent, he’s done a superb job coaching, he has a good attitude to coaching. He tries to make people better players and that’s all you can do as a coach.
“He will be missed and it might be that after a couple of months he misses us and comes back, I don’t know.
“He has been coaching this team all year and a lot of the football they (some fans) criticise, he is responsible for. But I am fully behind him because that’s the way I want my teams to play. He’s only coaching what I want. He has been a fantastic person for this club but even he got hurt by some of the criticism.
“He will be as hard to replace as Jamie Howell was as manager. There’s not many people with the qualifications, the desire and who are able to give up things in this area.”
Read a full interview with Darin Killpartrick about his reasons for leaving the Rocks in the Bognor Observer - out on Thursday