Dean Thomas: I fought tooth and nail along the way but it got too much
Dean Thomas says he resigned as manager of Hinckley United because the club's damaged reputation for non-payment of wages stopped fresh blood wanting to sign for the club.
After 15 years and 972 games in charge, Thomas decided to call it a day following Tuesday night's FA Cup Preliminary Round defeat at lower-league Ossett Albion.
The 50-year-old had been in charge since the club's formation, in 1997, following the merger of Hinckley Town and Hinckley Athletic.
Thomas said he had enjoyed some "wonderful times" at the club and was grateful for the backing of United's "loyal supporters" during his long stint in charge.
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But he also said that Hinckley had endured some "dark days" in recent times, and that the club's well-documented financial problems had finally caught up with the squad's ability to compete in Blue Square Bet North, where they are currently bottom.
"The last three seasons have been a constant battle against massive financial problems both for me, the players and the club, which has been well documented," said Thomas.
"Myself and my staff have stayed loyal and worked tirelessly to overcome these issues on a regular basis.
"I feel we remained professional at all times but, retaining only three regular players from last season's squad, compounded the problem after a mass exodus for unpaid wages (in the summer).
"I tried tirelessly to improve this squad after finishing near the bottom last season but, unfortunately, our reputation has gone before us and many non-league players refuse to join us and go elsewhere instead.
"The young players I have signed have given it a go and I don't blame them. But the Northern Conference is a tough place to learn their trade and, unfortunately, a bit too big for some of them at the moment.
"I hope, in time, they all cut it at this level and higher and take with them a little of what we have taught them.
"There has been little enjoyment recently and I have thought about resigning a couple of times over the last year or so. I would have still gone had we won on Tuesday.
"After all of the players walked out in the summer, bar three, the rebuilding process was tiring as I got rejection after rejection when trying to sign the new players I wanted and needed.
"I fought tooth and nail along the way but it just got too much. You cannot compete at this level without good players who know how tough the league is and have had experience of playing in it.
"Unfortunately, few of them were prepared to come and join us and that was hard to take.
"It's time to give someone else a go now.
"The board have been working hard to get things right at the club but that has come at a cost – and that cost is the football team.
"I would like to thank everyone throughout the club, at every level. This club has been a big part of mine and my family's life and I have made some life-long friends through all of this. I will take away some wonderful memories."
A statement from the United board read: "We wish Dean every success in his future career.
"We will be working hard to ensure that the right people are put in place to take the club forward.
"As a board, we would like the shareholders and supporters of Hinckley United to know that we have the club's interests at heart, and will work to the best of our ability to secure the future of the club, within the parameters of the financial restraints the club has historically been placed under."
Neil Lyne and Carl Heggs have been appointed caretaker-managers and their first test comes tomorrow at Colwyn Bay, who are 18th in the table with only two victories to their credit so far.
Lyne has offered to take on the role alongside his Development Centre duties, while Heggs has indicated his desire to stay involved with the Knitters.