CONCORD Rangers winger Joe Gardner says turning down the chance to play in the Conference Premier was not easy, but the opportunity came “at the wrong time”.

The 24-year-old was approached by Welling United after Christmas, following a number of impressive performances for the Beach Boys.

But he chose to stay with Danny Cowley’s side after he admitted the move, which would have seen him link-up with former coach Jody Brown, would have clashed with his work.

And he says he is now working towards getting Concord promoted to the highest tier of non-league football.

“I want to play football at the highest level I can,” he said. “It should be the ambition for every non-league footballer and it is no different for me.

“But there are many things to take into consideration, the main one being work. I work for the Financial Conduct Authority in Canary Wharf and I would have had to dedicate more time to football if I made the move.

“They have been very understanding. But, that said, I am not looking to leave Concord Rangers. I love playing for them and we all enjoy every game.”

Gardner started at Olympian side Leigh Ramblers before moving up the football pyramid with Redbridge and Maldon & Tiptree.

But he secured a move to Concord Rangers, where he has flourished under Cowley.

Although he said he would one day relish the chance to link up with former Grays Athletic manager Brown, who he has worked with at Redbridge and Maldon & Tiptree.

“I know Jody well,” he said. “I haven’t worked under him as a manager but he knows football inside-out and he has referred to me as the next Dwight Gayle before!

“But maybe we will link up again in the future.”

Gardner has been struggling with a back injury in recent weeks, which he exacerbated in the 6-2 win at Barnet.

“It has been a real pain,” he admitted, having missed the FA Trophy defeat on Saturday. “My back went into spasm and then my hamstrings were playing up as they were overcompensating for other parts of my body. It has been one thing after another.

“But the team has come out the other side of it now and we look stronger for it. We can challenge in the Conference South and I would love to win the Essex Senior Cup.

“I was on the bench when Chelmsford beat Concord in 2009 and was cup-tied last season so it would be great to win it and be involved in the occasion.”