FORMER Southend United defender Dave McSweeney is leaving Billericay Town after five years.

The 27-year-old Basildon man is joining Blue Square Premier side Grays Athletic.

But, on the plus side, new Town boss Brian Statham has been boosted by the news that striker Joe Flack will, after all, be staying with the club.

He had originally declined an offer to remain at New Lodge and had been expected to join former Billericay colleagues Lynvall Duncan and Matt Game at Blue Square South Braintree Town.

Statham had hoped to have McSweeney, who played more than 200 games for the Blunts Wall Road outfit, available for the coming campaign after missing most of last season through injury.

He said: “From the minute I arrived at Billericay I’d identified Dave as a player I want to keep as part of the backbone of the team, so I’m naturally sorry to see him go. I can understand that he feels he can’t refuse this offer though and we wish him well.”

McSweeney said: “I would like to say a massive thanks to everyone at Billericay. I’ve really enjoyed my time there and will be sad to leave.

“Everyone at the club has been great to me and I hope next season goes well for them. The club deserves to be at a higher level than what it is.” Right-side midfielder or front-runner Bradley Woods-Garness has signed for Billericay’s Ryman Premier rivals Sutton United. But Flack’s proposed move to Braintree has broken down and Statham said: “Joe had said that he wouldn’t have signed for anybody else in our division and that the only reason he’d want a move was to test himself at a higher level.

“Although I was obviously disappointed in this, I understood. Ultimate-ly though, Braintree’s offer was substantially lower than our valuation and, as a result, Joe will be staying.

“He now has an excellent opportunity to show his class this season as he will be a free agent at the end of it and will have his pick of clubs.

“I’m obviously pleased Joe’s staying because finding proven goalscorers is a difficult task and, if he is at peak fitness, I expect him to be one of the two top goalscorers in the league next year.”

Billericay’s players are two weeks into a six-week summer fitness programme and the new boss is expecting them back raring to go when training resumes on July 2.