BRIGHTLINGSEA Regent boss Tom Rothery admits he would have no choice but to step down if his playing budget is cut next season.

R's chairman Terry Doherty addressed supporters at a fans' forum last week and warned that as things stand, the club will be unable to match the current cash pot.

Unless new sponsors or investors step forward, resources will be cut and that, inevitably, would lead to players leaving the Bostik League side.

Rothery understands the dilemma and says he would hate the club to put itself in dire straits, by spending beyond its means.

However, he says his job is hard enough as it is and that he would definitely walk away if the budget is trimmed.

"It was a very frank and honest discussion at the forum, which it needed to be," he told the Gazette.

"I love the club dearly and would hate anyone to think I'm holding it to ransom. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"I'm not stupid and know money doesn't grow on trees, especially in the current climate.

"I'd never want the club to over-stretch itself or get into trouble.

"However, equally, I have to be honest and true to myself.

"Last season, we usually had a pool of 13 senior players with under-18s making up the squad and this season we’ve generally had 14 senior players with the squad again topped up by reserve players or under-18s.

"I’ve been happy with that as it’s given young players an opportunity to play at step three level.

"However, it's tough with the budget at its current level and if it went down again it would be completely unmanageable.

"I already feel I'm operating with one hand tied behind my back.

"And if you stand still in football, you're going backwards.

"I can't work like that. I have to feel I can progress and take the club forward.

"I want to grow, build and improve on what we achieve this season but with a lower budget I wouldn't consider that possible.

"As such, it would be better for me to step aside and let the club find someone with a different opinion, believing they could be competitive, or someone to come on board with money."

Rothery admits it is a sad and regrettable situation, especially given his side's success this season - they are still in with a sniff of the premier division play-offs, well clear of relegation, having enjoyed success in both the FA Cup and FA Trophy.

"It's so sad that money is the bottom line," he said.

"But based on our success this season, I want the players' money to increase gradually and feel that’s warranted.

"I’d like it to be something that gradually increases, so eventually we can become more competitive at this level and be able to sign players with experience, which we haven’t really been able to do.

"I'm happy not to get anything more myself as I didn’t last year either but believe the players deserve more, as some kind of reward. Even if it's only a minimal increase.

"At least that would allow me to look players in the eye and try and keep the nucleus of our squad together.

"They're anything but money-grabbers - many of them could earn considerably more elsewhere - but they deserve better.

"Harvey Hodd (work commitments) and Michael Brothers (who has been appointed Brantham Athletic manager) have both left for different reasons and I’m intentionally not replacing them to help the club financially and because it gives other younger players a chance to see how they cope at step three level."

Rothery is keeping his fingers crossed that the situation can be resolved between now and the end of the season.

However, he has "severe worries" and fears Brightlingsea's home match against Enfield Town on April 27 could be his last in the Regent hotseat.

"I hope I don't sound harsh," he added.

"I don't want people to think I'm being greedy, selfish or unreasonable.

"I've worked really hard to help create a pathway and totally understand the club's not awash with money.

"It's easy for people to say 'do the best with what you've got'.

"But it's more complicated than that.

"I've been getting grief as it is this season and believe that if I went into next season with a reduced budget I'd be making myself a sitting duck.

"Why would I put myself through that?

"I'm ambitious and have to feel I've got a fighting chance, which is why I'm going to stand my ground on this.

"I have to remain steadfast, even though I don't want to leave and hate the thought of walking away.

"There are so many great people here.

"The club have been a great story in terms of local non-league and I dearly want that to continue.

"We've improved this season - we're doing a great job just to be competitive, given our resources - and I've got faith and belief that we could push on again next time.

"However, it's unrealistic to think that would happen with a reduced budget."

Regent, 13th in the table, drew 0-0 at home to Lewes last weekend and are away to Carshalton Athletic on Saturday.