FC CLACTON boss Tom Austin admitted being proud and delighted after winning a non-league manager-of-the-year poll.

The Daily Gazette - the Clacton, Frinton and Walton Gazette’s sister paper - organised a series of ballots asking football followers to vote for their best boss, goalkeeper, full-back, centre-half, midfielder, winger and striker.

The polls were based on performances last season and readers had the chance to pick from a shortlist of five worthy candidates.

Of the 3,043 votes in the manager poll, Austin won by just 51 - scooping 1,181 compared to Heybridge Swifts boss Julian Dicks’ 1,130.

That equated to 39 per cent, compared to 37.

“I can’t believe it and am so proud and delighted to have won,” Austin told the Gazette.

“I was up against some very fierce competition – four other managers who have had brilliant seasons at their respective clubs.

“It was always going to be tough but I’m so grateful to everyone who took the time to vote and support me. I can’t believe how many people took part and for me, as a young manager starting out in a tough league, it’s a real achievement.

“It means a lot and this is the cherry on the cake, after the season we had together last season.

“It’s recognition for everyone – the whole team – and not just me because it was the players who made it a record-breaking year.

“They deserve so much credit and so do my assistants, Ade Webster and Glenn Eldridge.

“They’ve been brilliant and such a support.”

Despite operating with a limited budget, it turned out to be a record-breaking campaign as Clacton finished sixth in the Thurlow Nunn League premier division - their best-ever finish - and managed a record 19 victories.

The club were well-represented in the polls, with Harry McDonald being crowned midfielder-of-the-year and Zach Smith-Walter finished as runner-up in the full-back voting chart, behind Swifts’ Joe Claridge.

McDonald gleaned nearly half the vote (47 per cent), despite facing fierce competition, including team-mate Jack Clampin.

Buoyed by 468 votes, he had the edge on runner-up Brightlingsea Regent’s Jake Turner, who finished with 347 (35 per cent).

Claridge enjoyed 36 per cent of the full-back vote - 455 votes - but Smith-Walter was hot on his heels with 33 per cent (416 votes).

“Congratulations to the other boys who made it onto the shortlists, especially Harry and Zach,” added Austin.

“I couldn’t be happier and I’m already looking forward to next season and trying to build on our success.”

Regent’s former Clacton wide man Aaron Condon walked away with the winger poll, dribbling his way to a whopping 52 per cent of the vote and 265 votes.

And Seasiders pair Karl Andrade and Adam Hampson featured in the top striker poll but lost out to Coggeshall United’s George Smith.

* Clacton have confirmed the signing of striker Mekhi McKenzie on a season-long loan from AFC Sudbury.