JODY Brown says he is proud of his achievements after resigning as Heybridge Swifts manager, writes Danny Rust.

Brown, who led the club to the Isthmian North play-offs as well as extensive FA Cup and FA Trophy runs last season, has left the Aspen Waite Arena after a successful stint in charge.

Brown’s final match at the helm came in the form of a 2-1 defeat at Basildon United on Tuesday and the boss, who also led Swifts to pull off a great escape to avoid relegation in 2017, says he will look back on his achievements with great fondness.

In his first in-depth interview since departing, Brown said: “The club has been on a massive uphill curve for the last two seasons, climbing from 255th in the non-league pyramid to 104th and ranked as the highest step four team in the nation by some way.

“Gary White is a fabulous chairman and Steve Spreadbury is equally as good as vice-chairman. It’s their hard work, along with a few others, which made it possible.

“I came in as manager while the club were bottom of the league and with quite serious financial instability.

“We worked really hard to stay up and I’m so proud of that achievement.

“We reached the Essex Senior Cup final for the first and only time in the club’s history and beat full-time Dagenham & Redbridge twice along the way - but despite those highs, we still found progress difficult.

“The real turnaround came when Gary and Steve took over and helped to create a community culture, encourage youth development and support me and the players however they could.

“Together, along with my staff, we built a team on very modest resources and with hard work and a collective drive we achieved the unbelievable.

“We made history in both FA competitions, earning a National Game Award, and we reached the play-offs despite a 16 game backlog.

“Importantly, we built a reputation for a great possession based brand of football that fans enjoyed.

“Competing the way we did against full-time clubs in Exeter City and Maidstone United filled me with pride and seeing the fans’ faces and togetherness during the cup runs made it all so much more special.

“Over these two years we built a reputation for developing players and saw numerous successes in that department with players progressing into the professional game via our club. That was part of our mantra and I hope Heybridge will continue in that vein.

“It gives you a special feeling to see the small part you can play in young people’s future successes.”

However, Brown was disappointed not to be given more resources in order to improve his squad after earning added income from the FA Cup and FA Trophy successes.

“Given the financial stability we had brought to the club, I had really hoped for improved resources to at least allow me to keep our over-achieving squad together, but also hopefully improve it,” added Brown.

“When it wasn’t there I knew we would be pushed to progress further and when players were asking for astronomical increases as a result of their new found exposure, I had already begun to question their motives and principles.

“I recognised and appreciated the reasons for the club’s decision not to increase the budget over the summer and was completely supportive of the decision.

“However, in truth I wanted to step away then and had some really exciting opportunities offered to me at other clubs.

“Out of loyalty to the players and fans, but most notably Gary, Steve, and Adam Drew, I stayed.

“Once I decided to stay I gave it everything and spent every ounce of time and effort I could to get it right again - often at the expense of my family and my own mental health, such were the struggles we faced in retaining the group we had built.

“In all honesty, the summer was a shambles and everybody at the club knew it.

“The ground wasn’t ready, the changing rooms weren’t ready and still aren’t complete today.

“We travelled here, there and everywhere to train and play and I felt that the entire club had taken the previous season’s miraculous achievements for granted and forgotten the process.

“All kinds of stuff was going on behind the scenes that were having a negative effect on our potential to progress.

“It had become an environment where people felt we would win because of what we had done the previous year. They expected it but without the preparation, the work ethic, or the drive from the previous year.

“No matter how many times I reminded people of where we had come from, how quickly we had developed, how many players we had lost, how modest our resources were, the supporters still expected us to beat all comers.”

And Brown admitted an experience following the heavy defeat to Dereham Town, earlier this month, nearly resulted in him leaving the club sooner.

Brown, who has enjoyed two spells in charge of Swifts, admitted: “The next time I felt that it was time to step down was when we lost our first home game in 10 months against Dereham, a side we had lost to nine times in succession.

“A long time and loyal supporter had a go at me after the game and said that I shouldn’t be manager of Swifts because I left the club after our play-off defeat in 2013 to move up the pyramid.

“Fans are allowed their opinion but, given the effort I had put into this club throughout good and bad times, I felt I deserved slightly better and in truth I found it hard to take.

“The atmosphere around the club was affecting me and the players negatively and, again, I really felt it was time to move on.

“I continued to work hard for the players, but I couldn’t get them going - not at the levels I had previously.

“When we travelled to Horsham in the FA Cup with a few senior players absent on holiday, I knew my time was up.

“Those that know me, know I strive for professionalism. Players’ erratic availability has always been something I’ve struggled to accept at this level.

“I never miss a session, a game, a pre-season, an opportunity to watch an opponent’s game. I watch all of our own games back, have a meeting, phone call or a coffee with a player that needs a chat, so to go out of the FA Cup in that fashion as a result of needless absentees was a blow to the club, but also to my mentality and commitment to the group.

“I built the group and I respect every single one of them as players, but I felt that they had lost their edge and that I had lost the will to be the driving force.”

And Brown offered to resign following Saturday’s 4-3 defeat at Horsham.

Brown confirmed: “I told the club the next day that I needed to step down and that I no longer wanted to work in an environment where you can get attacked by supporters, followed into car parks by opposing chairmen, be victimised by governing bodies, yet not even have a fully committed set of people around you to prepare and win football matches.

“They took me to dinner and pleaded with me to stay on and finish the project we had started.

“That, along with the players that I had grown to love also asking me to give it a few weeks, was hard to ignore and persuaded me to stay.

“Against everything my brain was telling me, I agreed out of loyalty to the players, the club and respect for the chairman, committee and sponsors, to stay.”

However, a 2-1 reverse at table-topping Basildon United proved to be the breaking point.

Brown said: “Then on Tuesday night, at Basildon, it all happened again.

“A player pulled out of the team by text message 10 minutes before the teamsheet went in, the away supporters aggressively blocked my route to the tunnel and were on the pitch after the game behaving in a threatening manner.

“There was no professionalism from the clubs, the officials or the stewards and then to top it off, the home chairman started abusing me and telling me I was embarrassing and a disgrace for not getting involved in all the fighting and other nonsense at the end of the game.

“One of his players was sent off and none of mine, so I’m not sure what I should or shouldn’t have done in his opinion.

“It’s all on camera, just as it was in the car park at Aveley with their chairman the week before.

“Deep inside I knew I was done before the game, but after this there was no chance of a change of heart.

“There’s no protection for players or managers at these grounds and the stuff that goes on is appalling.

“I have two young daughters that I can’t even bring to games because this kind of nonsense is so prevalent at our level.

“I think the game loses a lot of professional and capable people as a result of all the unprofessional behaviour that is allowed to go on and left unpunished at our level.”

After being contacted for a comment, Basildon United chairman Lee Connor said: “I said to Jody that, as manager of Heybridge Swifts, he didn’t conduct himself or control his players in the right manner.

“They were his boys and his team and I would not have stood for what happened if it were my club’s players.

“I was amazed to see Jody standing there just waiting for an interview.

“He stood there waiting for his interview while his players were fighting.”

However, Brown admitted he will remain a fan of Heybridge for life.

“I wish I could’ve gone out with a win and I wish I could have brought a promotion to this great club, but it wasn’t to be,” added Brown.

“Now a new man with fire in his belly and the hunger to work at this level of football needs to step in and continue the upward curve the club is on.

“I gave every ounce of myself to Heybridge Swifts. I’m sure those that matter know that.

“I had hoped to build a club, not just a team - I really hope that we did that.

“I leave with some unbelievable memories and experiences and I also leave as a much better manager than when I arrived.

“I will miss the training ground and the dressing room, but not the nonsense we’re exposed to on such a regular basis.

“It’s time to relax, watch other coaches, watch more games at different levels, read more and learn more.

“I’m still very hungry to work in football, but I will forever be a fan of Heybridge Swifts.”