A TRUE HERO

IT was the end of an era for Aylesbury United on Saturday night as Cliff Hercules resigned as manager of the Ducks.

The 38-year-old and assistant manager Terry Back both stepped down from their positions after the final game of the season at Worthing for personal reasons.

The move ends Hercules' long association with the club's first team which has stretched back 18 years.

Hercules chose to leave the post due to expanding work commitments in his role as football development officer at the club.

The Ducks' smaller playing budget next season was also a factor.

Hercules made his debut for the Ducks in 1984 having joined the club from Oving. He proceeded to be part of the most successful playing side in the club's history as a striker.

He helped fire the goals which helped the Ducks win the Southern League Premier Division in 1988, play in the Conference for a season in 1988-89, and reach the FA Cup first round and beyond nine times during his time. This included the 1994/95 season when the Duck Walk celebration captured the nation's imagination.

Hercules had a brief stint away from the club at Slough Town, but he returned to finish his playing career at Buckingham Road as a defender and retired from playing in May 2000.

He is United's record goalscorer and appearance holder with 301 goals in 668 matches.

Hercules took up the reins as manager in October 2000 after Gary Phillips was sacked.

His first season proved a hard slog as he worked with the inconsistencies of the side he had inherited, and despite occasional flashes of promise the side struggled to a 14th place finish.

The side became more in his own mould in the summer as he brought in new blood.

The blend of experience and enthusiastic youth proved a success as the Ducks enjoyed a strong first half to the season which saw them top the league and have a great FA Cup run which ended in a day out at Nationwide Division 2 side Port Vale.

The Ducks' form did slip after Christmas and the chance to win the league was lost, but Hercules' commitment to passing attractive football was rewarded as promotion was won memorably with a 3-0 win at champions-elect Ford United.

Hercules, talking to The Bucks Herald on Monday, admitted the Ducks job had been very hard work on him.

He said: "We have worked extremely hard to get players in. We have signed around 12 players this season and they don't just grow on trees, and a lot of my time has been spent going to games to watch players, and making a lot of telephone calls.

"It has been very stressful and there has been a lot of pressure as this is my home town club as I really care about what happens here."

Asked for the highlights of his time as manager, Hercules says: "That moment when we 'scored' against Port Vale was the best moment. For four or five seconds (until they discovered the goal was disallowed) it was brilliant as Terry and I ran onto the pitch, and the feeling was unbelievable.

"The performance at home to Yeading was the best we played under me, whilst there were the ten goals against Brentwood and eight against Whyteleafe, and the 4-3 fightback at Slough was very memorable."

Terry Back has been at the club since September, and says that he has loved his time there.

He said: "Without doubt I can say that this is the best non-league club that I have ever worked at and it has been a tremendous experience.

"I wish to thank everyone associated with Aylesbury United and I would particularly like to thank Tony Graham (the club secretary) who has done an exceptional job behind the scenes for us."