The management committee confirmed on Monday night that, following discussions over the previous few days, it had “reluctantly accepted” his resignation.
It was only announced at last Thursday’s Andy Gray-Pat Dolan fundraiser in the Granville Hotel that Cronin had agreed a one-year contract extension. However, difficulties obviously arose over the weekend and he had second thoughts.
The Corkman, 33, who had been in charge since August 2006, said in a statement: “It is with deep regret that I have decided to resign my post… I would like to thank the Board of the club, the players and staff I have worked with and the loyal true Waterford United fans who have supported me over the last two-and-a-half years. I would like to wish the club every success in the future both on and off the field.”
The club thanked him for his commitment and effort and wished him well in his future management career.
Later, taking to ‘Munster Express’ soccer correspondent Matt Keane, a “still disappointed” Cronin elaborated on his reasons for stepping down. “I just think it’s time… I’ve been working under very, very difficult circumstances. I suppose it wears you down eventually.”
After taking over from Mike Kerley in August 2006, Cronin was unable to keep the by then rock-bottom Blues in the Premier Division. However, after being granted a reprieve on foot of the Shels demotion debacle, Waterford were relegated at the end of the 2007 campaign after losing a play-off against Finn Harps. After the first leg of that tie ended in a 3-0 defeat an emotional and embarrassed Cronin offered his resignation but was persuaded to stay put.
Despite Waterford’s off-pitch woes, and his fear that “it could kill the club if we go up”, the season just passed had been filled with the promise of promotion up until the final few weeks when a run of poor results cost his young Blues side dearly.
However, as he says, United – whose players had to accept a pay cut after wages weren’t paid in midseason, with the manager’s ex-assistant Sean Francis also a victim of cutbacks last May – were competing with clubs with far greater resources.
Cronin, who works as an accountant in Dublin and has a young family, also found the constant commuting to and from the capital “tough”. Given the “mental tiredness” involved in a 322km round-trip three to four times a week, not to mention the club’s persistent money problems, “It does get very disheartening for the players and manager… I love the League of Ireland… [but] it’s very difficult to see any light at the end of the tunnel,” he said yesterday.
With Waterford now having to cut its cloth according to ever-tighter measurements (it’s reported that next season’s weekly budget will be a mere €3,500 – half this year’s), and an ‘all-local’ team envisaged, the outgoing boss warns that people, particularly the 400-or-so supporters who attend the RSC, will have to be “very patient”. Personally he can’t see Waterford winning the First Division, or even challenging for promotion, for two or three years.
“I was told it was the hardest job in football by a few people before I took the job,” said the latest man to try his luck at the RSC last July. That remains the case.