By Ron Fosker

So the Cowleys -brothers Danny and Nicky - have gone.

What now?

It’s not a new dilemma for Braintree Town’s board who have faced the same conundrum eight times since Lee Harding took over as chairman during the 2003/4 season.

When Harding arrived Iron were struggling at the wrong end of the Ryman Premier League.

Their stalwart centre-back Dave Culverhouse had taken the reins – initially in partnership with midfielder Dean Parratt but latterly on his own - after Gary Bellamy had been sacked in the autumn.

But he had not been able to rouse the team and resigned after three players were sent off in one game in late February.

Harding then called in a favour from an old friend, Graham Roberts, an FA Cup winner with Tottenham, who was living in Spain at the time.

It was never likely to be more than a temporary solution and so it proved.

Roberts was also unable to shake the team out of its torpor and they finished second from bottom, saved from relegation only by the creation of the Conference North and South, which meant that the teams in the top half of the Ryman Premier went into the new league while the bottom half combined with the top of division one to form the new premier division.

It was at this point that the club turned to George Borg, a colourful character, much travelled in non-league circles and with no little success to his name.

He brought about a revolution at Cressing Road and changed virtually the whole team, bringing in soon-to-be-favourites such as Billy Burgess, Ollie Adedeji and Alex Revell.

It almost had the desired effect immediately as Iron rose to fifth place but missed out in the play-offs.

The Borg gloss continued to shine and he led them to the top the following season, sealing the title with a more than satisfying win at local rivals Chelmsford.

An abiding memory is of a Chelmsford supporter shouting at the celebrating Braintree players: ‘Enjoy it while you can. You’ll be back down next year.’

It was the sort of comment Iron supporters have got used to over the past ten years.

Borg continued to inspire success and led the team to third place in their first season in the Conference South and the play-off final where they lost by a late goal to Salisbury.

But then things turned sour.

Iron got off to a poor start next season and were languishing near the foot of the table when the directors decided to give Borg five matches to turn things round.

He had been criticised for not bringing in fresh blood or for getting the best out of his players but an indication that it was not just footballing matters that were the concern was emphasised when Borg was given his marching orders only two games into that spell and ten days after Iron had last been in action.

At this point the board turned to Lee Patterson, promoted from Ryman League East Thurrock and an almost instant success.

Iron were in 14th place when he took charge of his first game in November 2007 but by the end of the season he had pulled them up to fifth, and a second successive season in the play-offs.

But for some reason, the honeymoon did not last.

Patterson’s comment that all the players he had signed in the close season were better than the ones they had replaced rebounded on him when the team got off to another sluggish start the following season.

Supporters – and the board – were entitled to ask: If the players are better why aren’t we higher in the table?

Either his assessment of them was inaccurate, or he is not getting the best out of them.

Neither view was helpful to his case.

A 6-2 defeat at the hands of Southern League Farnborough was the last straw and at roughly the same point in the season as his predecessor, Patterson was looking for a new job.

It was at this point that the board somewhat uncharacteristically chose not to make a new appointment, but to hand the task over to Brad Quinton.

Iron’s long-serving and much admired midfield general would have learnt from the experience but he was not able to improve the team’s league position and returned to his exclusive playing role the following season under new manager Robbie Garvey.

Unlike Patterson, who moved up a division, and Borg, whose move was more of a sideways one, the choice of Garvey was based on his experience at a higher level, namely as assistant manager at Dagenham and Redbridge, a Football League club for the previous two years.

Garvey, who had taken over the previous April, made his mark by releasing a large number of players while others followed of their own volition.

His approach mirrored that of Borg earlier, in putting his trust in his own signings, and to a certain extent it worked, as he took the team up from 14th the previous season to seventh.

At the beginning of the following season, the club, anxious as ever to operate within its means, cut the amount of cash available to the manager.

Garvey famously denounced it as a ‘relegation budget’ and walked out the door.

Rod Stringer stood Garvey’s words on their head and used the relegation budget to gain promotion, seven points clear at the top of the Conference South after leading the table from November.

In many ways, Stringer’s appointment was similar to Danny Cowley’s.

He had taken Aveley to third place in the Ryman Premier League after gaining promotion the previous season.

Rather as the bubble burst this time within days of the end of a successful season, Stringer announced his resignation while supporters were still celebrating.

Disagreement, ostensibly over the choice of car, led to a falling-out and the Iron board were back in the market again.

This time they went for a different mix, an international as a player, but with experience no higher than the Conference South as a manager.

But Alan Devonshire soon proved the absence of the Conference Premier on his CV was no handicap as he guided Iron to 12th, ninth and sixth in their first three seasons.

A falling away to 14th in his fourth season led to some disillusion and Devonshire decided the short drive to Maidenhead was preferable to his thrice-weekly slog round the M25 (in the passenger seat as it happens, with normally either his wife or Dean Wells at the wheel).

And then came the Cowleys.