SHEERWATER boss Pete Ruggles says the announcement of his departure as manager left his players “shocked and stunned”.

The long-serving gaffer – Ruggles’ reign will end at seven seasons – told his squad after their Southern Combination Challenge Cup win over Knaphill on Tuesday last week, with the club going public with the news two days later.

Ruggles will leave the club in a far better state than when he took over, having got the Sheers into their new ground at the Eastwood Centre, as well as taking them from the bottom of the league below to the top half of Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division South.

Ruggles told the News & Mail: “Seven years is a long time. In pre-season, with the new ground, I was quite mentally drained before we even kicked a football. I was thinking back then ‘I don’t know whether I can continue to keep doing this’.

“It was just getting harder and harder – and with no budget either, you’re then having to try to get players in. And the ground – although it’s a new facility – can’t get promoted currently.

“I said to [club secretary] Trevor Wenden ‘What more can I do?’. He was gutted and I think a bit stunned, but I was only being open and honest.

“It’s been quite the roller coaster – I remember even helping Trevor put the goalposts in the goal holes when I started.

“We’ve done tremendously well and this season we can finish eighth and we’re in a semi-final [of the Southern Combination Challenge Cup]. So there’s still lots to play for and it could end in a really good way.”

Sheers are in action at home on Bank Holiday Monday (18 April), hosting Guildford City, who have lost their last five games. Kick-off at 11.30am.