Len Smith admitted there have been countless highlights during his 50-year association with Eastbourne Borough.

But the 67-year-old had no hesitation when asked to name his standout moment during his time at the club.

Smith stood down this week after 40 years as chairman of the club which began as Langney Sports Fittingly, he has stepped aside with Borough top of Conference south and he now plans to concentrate more on his long-term rehabilitation from a stroke in 2011.

Smith was part of an under-18 side playing in the Eastbourne Minor League from which Eastbourne Borough was born.

He left for five years in the 1960s to manage a band called St John’s Wood, who were good enough to perform on television with their cover versions of popular songs of that decade.

However, after returning in an administrative role, he was the driving force of a club which provided the template for every ambitious side in Sussex.

Having joined the County League in 1983, the club progressed through the divisions before winning division one in 2000 and embarking on a remarkable journey from the ranks of Sussex football to reaching Conference premier in 2008, staying there for three years.

Smith said: “We started out as an under-18s youth side 50 years ago. We became too old for under-18s football so we started a men’s team.

“I then disappeared for five years as I went to manage a band but I came back around 1969-70.

“At first I came back as treasurer and then reserve team manager. As the club grew I became chairman and I have been chairman on and off for 40 years.

“Initially it was just one team playing in the Eastbourne League but we became more successful when we started running a reserve team. That is when it started to take off.

“We didn’t plan to do what we have done. We were just a local bunch of blokes who wanted to play together. We wanted a football pitch and a clubhouse. It blossomed from there. Success followed success.”

Langney Sports, or Eastbourne Borough as they became, are hugely respected in non-league circles for matching success on the field with progress off it in terms of developing the club’s facilities and structure.

There is now a solid platform for the club to continue to survive and thrive in the upper echelons of the semi-professional game and Smith can be immensely proud of his role in that.

As for success on the pitch, there are many special moments to remember.

Smith said: “There have been quite a few highpoints. We started off in Eastbourne and Hastings League division two and got as far as Conference premier.

“Among the highlights were opening the clubhouse, when we got promotion from the County League and when we won the play-offs at Stevenage.

“The most enjoyable day for me, the biggest one for me, was when we first appeared in the Sussex Senior Cup final (in 1992).

“We lost 1-0 to Brighton at the Goldstone Ground. For a little, local club it was a massive thing. That is the day I will always remember most.”

Although Smith has stepped down as chairman of the football committee and as a board director, he will still be a regular visitor to Priory Lane.

He said: “I feel it is the right time. We should be able to get a replacement when we are top of the table.

“I will still be down the ground helping out. I am not going away but I just need to give myself time to concentrate on my rehabilitation after my stroke.

“I have missed too many physio and gym session on football matters.”