Former Braintree Town and Leiston striker Cliff Akurang takes charge at Heybridge Swifts

Cliff Akurang (blue) in action for former club Leiston

Cliff Akurang (blue) in action for former club Leiston - Credit: James Ager

Much-travelled frontman Cliff Akurang has landed his first role in management, after taking the reins at Ryman North strugglers, Heybridge Swifts.

The 33-year-old, who can count Braintree Town and Chelmsford as former clubs, as well as a stint playing in the Football League, has taken over from Keith Wilson, who left third-bottom Swifts last week.

Akurang, who will be a player-manager, began the season as a key signing for Leiston, combining a playing role with coaching duties, but soon moved on to Swifts’ rivals Maldon & Tiptree after his switch to the Suffolk club did not work out.

He now finds himself on the first rung of the management ladder, having also coached at Maldon this term and previously at Bishop’s Stortford.

“I hope I can make an impact,” said Akurang, whose side travel to Chatham today.

“We picked up at Maldon during my time there, I coached at Leiston and they are still going quite strong and we did very well during my time at Bishop’s Stortford.

“I heard that the manager had left at Heybridge and having played for and always been a fan of the club, I told them to give me a shout if I was needed.

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“I have always wanted to be a manager, although maybe later on in my career, but the opportunity came up and I am looking forward to the challenge.

“From what I can see, anyone can beat anyone else in this league and it comes down to concentrating and being organised.”

Akurang will hope the experience of working with the likes of Alan Kimble at Maldon, and former Leiston boss Steve Ball can benefit him, but is also aiming to add his own ideas, whether on the pitch or on the sidelines.

“Being able to play as well will give me a different perspective of the game and my players,” added Akurang.

“Sometimes you may lose sight of certain things when you are coaching and when I am on the pitch I will hopefully be able to pick up on some of the finer details, such as the way the players are communicating with each other.

“Am I a ranter and raver? It depends on whether the team are playing the way I want them to and getting results. If they are not, I might have to be a bit tougher.”

Meanwhile, Akurang confessed he tried not to get involved with the racism debate that is dominating football, specifically the call for a rule to be brought in that would see a black or ethnic minority candidate given an interview for any management role at a club in the top five division of the Football League.

“I try not to get too involved,” said Akurang.

“From my point-of-view, the likes of John Barnes, Paul Ince and Viv Anderson, and others from that era, suffered the brunt of the racial abuse.

“People like that made it possible for people like me to play, it (racism)still goes on a bit, but things are in place to try and make a difference.

“Credit to the FA for trying to do something about it but I want to be judged on my footballing ability and not my skin colour.”

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