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John Higley shocked after sacking from Basildon United
Higley, whose side went eighth in the Essex Senior League with a 3-0 win at Stansted on Saturday, says he was called into the club’s Gardiners Close ground the following day and given the bad news by chairman Paul Smith.
Higley said he was told his services were no longer required because there are plans to amalgamate Basildon with their Conference South neighbours Billericay.
Billericay owner Grant Gordon says there are no plans in place for this, but added he was not dismissing the idea because it could work under the right circumstances.
Higley said it has all taken him by surprise because he felt he was capable of leading the team – who finished bottom of the league last season – to a top-six spot this time around.
He said: “I got a text to say can I come to the club on Sunday to see the under-21 side playing, and I said yes.
“I got there and the chairman said ‘things are changing and it’s good news for the club but bad news for you because we are letting you go’.
“I said ‘so basically you are sacking me’. And he said ‘we are letting you go because we are amalgamating with Billericay on the football side’.”
Rumours have been rife that there are plans for Basildon to become a reserve side for Billericay, but Gordon said this is not the case.
He said: “We have not got a Capital League side this year so it would be nice to have a feeder club, but this is not something we have discussed at all.”
Gordon said he’s been a long standing friend of Basildon treasurer Dave Maxwell, and that a partnership between the two clubs might work.
He said: “For it to work you would have to have the right manager in place at Basildon, because it could be the case that whoever’s there might just be getting a good side together and then Billericay will come and take those players.
“But having said that, it can work both ways. I spoke to Craig (Edwards, Billericay’s first team manager) about it this morning and he said it’s not a bad idea but it would need the right sort of manager in place there.
“So there’s nothing in place at the moment, but that is not to say we think that it is a bad idea.”
Higley was appointed as manager of Basildon in late June after Bobby Barnes quit after nine weeks in the role.
He said he had not fallen out with any of the club’s officials, and he has no idea if they have a replacement lined up.
“As far as I’m concerned I was doing a good job,” said Higley, who was previously in charge of the Bees between 2005 and 2007.
“The club only got 16 points last year and finished bottom. We already have 13 points this year and there are 28 games to go.
“So I really don’t know why this decision has been made.”
Higley’s departure is the latest surprise in a rollercoaster year for the club who’ve had four managers over the past year, had a player banned from football for assaulting a referee last season, and resigned from the league in the summer due to financial difficulties – before later withdrawing that resignation.