Published: 06:00, 06 February 2018
| Updated: 06:03, 06 February 2018
Clive Cook has spoken out for the first time since leaving Hythe Town.
The 59-year-old's last game in charge was the 3-3 draw at Ashford on January 20 and two days later the club announced Sam Denly would be replacing him in the dugout.
Cook was offered a boardroom role at Reachfields but, as he reveals in this interview, he turned that down following revelations in the days which followed.
He's determined to get back into management as quickly as possible but admits the pain of what happened still lingers.
Cook said: "First of all I'd like to thank everyone at Hythe Town for giving me the opportunity, especially the chairman, to run a fantastic football club.
"He wanted to put a fresh face on it and they wanted me to resign but I didn't feel I needed to resign. I didn't feel it was necessary. I wasn't sacked but I didn't resign.
"It's up to Mr Chairman, he runs the football club. If he wanted a fresh face, it's down to him.
"But things happened, which I've found out over the last two weeks, which don't sit well with me. It's poor. It was obviously in certain people's minds before it actually happened. That's down to the people who run the club, if that's what they want to do, they've got every right to do that.
"There was talk of me going upstairs but after the first week, when certain people said certain things and it got back to me, I didn't think it sat well for me to stay at the football club.
"I still feel I've got a lot to offer from the bench as a football manager. I love a project to get my teeth into, to build sides. That's what I'm good at, I'm a very good man-manager and there will be an opportunity, I hope, somewhere along the line in the near future.
"I won't say what was said because that's down to me to deal with but I didn't think it was right for me to stay on at the football club after that. It was the right decision, probably, for all parties, to part ways."
But for Cook, who worked alongside Scott Porter as assistant manager for several years previously, leaving Hythe was still a huge wrench.
"It was terrible," he said. "I've had some fantastic messages from players who have not even played for me. I've had some fantastic messages from managers and chairmen, none more so than Tommy Sampson, who phoned me on the Monday. To be honest, I broke down.
"That man's got a lot of problems but he had enough about him to phone me up. He told me to keep my head held high and keep my composure - what a man, as far as I'm concerned. What a thing to do. Massive in my eyes.
"He's not a well man and he told me that but he said 'I just wanted to get to you because I know what you're probably going through.'
"Hythe was a big player in my life for years, especially the last three so it really dismanted me for a week, took me off my vision and what I was all about.
"I'm lucky I've got a strong family around me. I know it sounds stupid because people can look at it and go 'it's only football, look at people like Tommy who are not well' and I do respect that. Yes, it is only football but managers will always tell you that if they haven't got a job, you're completely lost.
"I put my whole life into that job. I was passionate about it and I gave it all my time. I was on it seven days a week but that's what I do. I'm not going to go in half-hearted. I loved it.
"I'd like to thank my management team, who were absolutely fantastic; Mark Lane, Mike Ward, Andy Payne and the physio, Jordan. They were brilliant to me before, during and after.
"I'd also like to say a massive thanks to my squad, the players who are there now and the people who have gone. My team, my players, who came for me. They're brilliant and I won't have anything said bad about them."
But one individual stood out from the crowd during Cook's two-and-a-half years in charge: Alfie May. The striker's goals for Hythe earned him a move to Doncaster Rovers in January 2017 and May later hailed the huge influence Cook had on him and thanked him for making the deal possible.
Cook said: "We got on great and what a player, fantastic. He is what non-league football’s all about.
"People think they’re good enough but he actually worked to be good enough. That didn’t just come. Yes, he had the character and the skill but also he had the dedication and the want and that’s massive in a young man.
"I treated him like my own son. I’ve got a massive amount of respect for him and I hope he makes whatever he needs to make in football. He’s turned his life around from being a chippie to being a professional footballer. Fantastic.
"I hope he jogs on and gets to the next level, which I’m sure he could do. I really am sure that someone out there will go ‘hang on, this boy’s good’ and he is good.
"My other special moment was taking them from 22nd to the play-offs in 36 games, a massive achievement. I was allowed to build a very good squad by the chairman, who backed me 150%.
"Yes, you make mistakes in the transfer market and try to correct them but I enjoyed working with every one of those players who came in with me.
"It’s still raw. I’ve got a lot of passion for the football club but it’s football. That’s what I keep telling myself. It’s an experience that, if I get back in, I might come up against again but I’ll probably deal with it better.
"I’ve got a massive amount to offer someone who wants a project built. I can build it. I know I can, because of my contacts with players and my management of players."
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