The popular Cockcroft will take part in his final game as a Bognor backroom staff when Robbie Blake’s men host Wingate & Finchley on Saturday 24 September.
His new job as a cruise ship safety officer with Carnival UK means he will not be able to commit the time needed to fulfill his role and is therefore quitting after almost 750 games in the position. He explained, “I’ve done 19 years in the military and 20 years teaching, so I’m going to bring the two together for my final job.”
Cockcroft joined Nyewood Lane in 2007 when Darin took over management duties to Killpartrick. After working with Dabba at Chichester College Football Academy, it was an easy decision, he says.
He added: “I came in with Dabba back then and I’m not sure I would have believed you if you had told me I would still be here 13 years later. But it was very enjoyable and I will miss it. I’m starting a new job that’s 12 weeks, 12 weeks off, so I just can’t keep going.
“I would like to thank the supporters because they have always been very good to me, as has Jack (Pearce) who has made everything possible. I’ve really enjoyed my time working with Dabba and Jamie Howell and I wish Robbie and Jamie all the best and I really believe the club is going in the right direction.”
Cockcroft has seen plenty of talent representing the club in recent years and has seen some ups and some downs during his decade and a half tenure.
He said: “The play-off finals are always exciting and Dulwich Hamlet have always been good opponents; two promotions and two relegations, the FA Trophy run (semi-final loss to Grimsby Town), winning the Sussex Senior Cup (against Burgess Hill) – because I’ve been there three times and lost, so it was a highlight to go there and to to win. Like I said, it was a lot of fun.
So who was his favorite player to play for the Rocks? He said: “I loved working with Luke Nightingale, he was an old-fashioned centre-forward and I worked hard with him to get him out of his knee problem. Birmy (Michael Birmingham)…well, he’s Birmy! boys too. And I remember the satisfaction of working hard with Jason Prior before he moved on.
Rocks general manager Simon Cook said the club owed a debt of gratitude to Cockcroft for his service over the years. He said: “I was stunned when I looked at the records and saw that Neil has been with us since 2007 and has been with us for around 750 games. It was a pleasure to have Neil with us and we are sorry that he is leaving but we fully understand his position. Everyone at the club wishes him well in his new job and look forward to welcoming him back to cheer for the Rocks when he has time.”