Jones "proud" of what he achieved with Ashton & Backwell United

Ashton and Backwell's Stuart Jones during their pre-season friendly

Ashton and Backwell's Stuart Jones during their pre-season friendly with Paulton Rovers in the summer of 2019. - Credit: Josh Thomas

Stuart Jones says he was "proud" of what was achieved during his three-year spell in charge of Ashton & Backwell United, after announcing he was standing down as manager.

Jones was appointed in May 2018, to replace former managers Paul Waring and Rich Ford, and led them to fourth place in his first season, an improvement of the previous campaign where the Stags finished in 18th position.

Despite two back-to-back null and void seasons, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Jones looks back on his time with great a sense of sadness, twinned with happiness, of how far he has taken his side.

And he confirmed his backroom staff of Barry Dymianczuk and Ian Milton are still, currently, with the club, but assistant-manager Andy Hawkins has left.

"I think it’s the right time for me, the club and three years of football is pretty standard nowadays, one or two exceptions," he said.

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"I don’t know what happens in the future. I’ve got ambitions to manage at a decent level whether that happens or not I don’t know.

"The club is close to my house, the players all live close by. I’m massively grateful for the opportunity they gave me and I’m grateful for the perseverance.

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"In all the great times I remember two occasions that came to mind where I had sleepless nights because we didn’t do that great on a Saturday and it does grab you like that.

"You do sleep, eat, think about this and that and the worst thing about being a football manager is he isn’t playing on the weekend. That is tough.

"As a manager you do everything for the good of the team not an individual, board member or a parent. Everything is focused around the team and some people don’t understand that, but that’s football."

Despite leaving Jones recalls some of his best memories with the club, including Sam Thomas' last-minute winner at Calne and James White’s winner against Calne when they won 3-2 after being 2-0 down.

And beating Lebeq on the road both times with last-minute goals, which Jones hailed as "excellent days", and a match at Warminster, where A&B came away with a 2-1 win.

Ashton & Backwell United new signing Conor Biggins

From left to right: Coach, Ian Milton, chairman Mike Thomas, chairman, Conor Biggins, Stuart Jones, Andy Hawkins and coach Barry Dymianczuk. - Credit: Ashton & Backwell United FC

He added: "It was a really horrible day and we wore a white kit, Harry Walker scored two good goals, Lewis (Coombes) made a great save at the end and Calum Biggins came off the pitch like he had just put the kit on.

"He was absolutely immaculate. Bearing in the mind it rained and the pitch was muddy. The journey home on the bus was excellent. That I will always remember. the atmosphere on the coach.

"At Devizes away, Calum Townsend came off after getting smashed with the goalkeeper and scored, George Jones scored a great goal in the last minute. I’ve got loads of fond memories, absolutely loads."

Sam Thomas receives his supporters' player of the year award

Sam Thomas receives his supporters' player of the year award at Ashton & Backwell United. - Credit: Mike West

But what's next for Jones?

He confirms he has "absolutely nothing lined up" and the reason for his departure is wanting a "new challenge and something different" while finishing off his coaching badges.

"I hope somebody can take a punt on me," he said.

"I have no ambition of going back into full-time football or an academy. There is a plan to manage higher up I suppose, I wouldn’t mind progression. I may have to go sideways to get back up. We will have to wait and see. Nobody knows."

Ashton & Backwell United's Stuart Jones

Stuart Jones managed 41 games for Ashton & Backwell United, winning 20, drawing five and losing 16, in all competitions in his three-year spell with The Stags. - Credit: Ashton & Backwell United FC

But he had a special message for both his coaching staff and the Stags supporters.

Jones said: "I would like to say to all the fans and all the parents and everybody who comes, thanks for everything.

"We had some great days and I appreciate everything you've done. I thoroughly enjoyed everything. The bad moments not so much, but I enjoyed the good days and there was a lot of them.

"Perhaps we were spoiled, in a way, with some of the games and goals. One thing you could guarantee watching Ashton & Backwell was goals, there was always goals at either end.

"Without Andy Hawkins, we wouldn’t have got as far as we have, and then we added Barry Dymianczuk and Ian Milton and our physio Aaron Biddle. Even though I give a lot of of praise to the players, without my three coaches, Nick Smart, Matt Southern and Mike Radnedge in the reserves we wouldn’t have succeeded.

"That’s a definite. They weren’t yes men, we argued over team selections but I prefer it that way. I want different opinions.

I’m proud of what me and my group of coaches have achieved. I just reiterate it’s all down to the players. Mike (Thomas), Matt (Southern) and Charlie (Cole) do an amazing job, but the football club you are as good as your players who run out on the field and that’s how football is.

"I do feel a sense of pride in being top four over the last three seasons, including these null and void seasons, and I don’t think I could've given any more time up. Now I don’t know if that’s enough or whether that’s too much. I couldn’t have given more time than I did."

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