THURROCK owner Tommy South has bid a fond farewell to the club after a ‘30-year rollercoaster journey’ finally came to an end at the weekend.

Fleet played their last ever match on Saturday, falling to a 5-2 defeat at Staines Town following a hugely successful season in the Isthmian Premier League.

South announced he would be putting the club up for sale at the start of the season due to health reasons.

And with a buyer not forthcoming, the gates of the club are now closing for good.

But South says he is overwhelmed with the send-off he and the club have been given in the closing weeks of term, and admits he is looking forward to doing some ground-hopping in the months ahead.

“It has been outstanding,” said South.

“The people of Staines gave me a plaque, a trophy and champagne.

“It was a great day - despite the result - and it was like we had won the FA Cup. At the end, the directors and people of Staines said ‘can we have your supporters?’ “That team and Mark [Stimson] have been remarkable since Christmas, when I made the announcement, but I don’t necessarily think it sunk in straight away.

“But everyone stayed together and it has been fantastic the way the team has kept going.

“I need to decide what to do now.

“The clubs I have been visiting recently say I am always welcome in the boardroom and [secretary] Norman Posner keeps ringing me up and asking what we are going to do next season. We will have to do some ground-hopping, although who knows where we will end up.

“But the main thing was my illness and it was a wake up call. It has been a 30-year rollercoaster but this was the right time for me. It is nothing to do with finances. We are a debt free club and I am proud of that.”

South is in remission from cancer and says, while he continues to be monitored by doctors, he is feeling well.

But having created Thurrock - originally Essex Sports FC and then Purfleet FC - in 1984, he says he is pleased he is able to say goodbye to Thurrock on his terms.

“I have had some downs over the years, such as when we got relegated through no fault of our own [in 2013 after a player failed to pay a £16 fine],” he added.

“But we bounced back and we did well this year and I knew we wouldn’t struggle. Mark wouldn’t let that happen.

“This is the longest club he has ever been at. Mark is a fantastic man and I wish him all the success in the world.

“My dad, God rest his soul, used to say ‘if you have no socks, you can’t pull them up’. We never overspent and the sponsors have been brilliant and we wouldn’t have gotten to where we did without everyone’s support.

“I can say I started it and finished it in my lifetime. Thurrock didn’t end when I died. I wish them all the best.”