CHAIRMAN Mike Burke insists manager Paul Smith has yet to highlight any concerns over his proposed new contract with the board at Bromsgrove Sporting.

Smith described “a massive gulf in our thoughts on how to take the club forwards” and claimed it had been “clear the club don’t want me to sign a contract” in an interview with our sister paper, the Bromsgrove Advertiser.

The Victoria Ground boss has since told the Bromsgrove Standard that supportive messages from fans had been “the only thing which has stopped me walking away” from his side's push for glory at the top of the Midland Football League.

Burke said Smith had instigated talk of a contract back in October but after months of negotiations, which included both sides obtaining legal advice on the deal, that this week's meeting with the club’s executive committee had ended abruptly.

The 12-month contract with an option for another year had been due to start this month, said Burke, but after delays in negotiations it was amended to begin in March.

“We expected there to be differences of opinion, that Paul might want things added or taken away, but he did not state whether he was unhappy or what he was unhappy with,” said Burke.

“The meeting finished quite quickly. Paul pointed out his results and all of the things he does to help the club PR wise like attending fetes, charity runs, things like that.

“He went on to point out quite strongly that he had never asked for a contract. It was quite a strange way to finish and I asked whether or not he wanted a contract but did not get a satisfactory answer.

“We didn’t expect Tuesday to be the end of it but wanted Paul to tell us what he wanted.

“It came about originally from a meeting I had with Paul in October. He stated he wanted to keep progressing and was concerned. He said contract players would be more inclined to renew if Paul himself was guaranteed to be tied down for next season at least.

“He had spoken to me privately about it and within a few hours had put the same points to the board on an email.

“It was brought up at the next board meeting. I didn’t see any reason not to give him a contract and it was voted through.

“There were things that had to be altered and checked. We promised a new code of conduct at the fans’ forum, especially after the issue with the players and their wages for Boxing Day.

“We now have one. The idea was that this code of conduct would form part of the contract and Paul had a copy with his contract.

“Most of the volunteers, staff and directors have signed it right through to the groundsman and the guy who picks up the litter.

“If Paul does not want to have a contract then we will just have to offer him the code of conduct and ask him to sign that like the rest of us have."

Asked whether he felt the code of conduct had been Smith’s issue, Burke replied: “I don’t know and would not want to speculate. Only Paul knows that.”

Asked for his take on Smith’s comments, Burke said: “To find out in the press he does not want to discuss his contract further is disappointing, not least because of the work that has been put into it and the discussions he had with me.

“It is something very few clubs do at this level and a nice gesture that is not often seen.

“What is annoying from our point of view is that it comes three weeks after we let the manager have an 11-and-a-half per cent increase to his budget.”

At Bromsgrove’s fans forum in January, the Bromsgrove Standard reported Smith had stated the need for outside investment and said: “We are not good enough for the next level.”

Asked about the budget, Burke said: “Before the increase it was among the top three or four budgets in our league.

“Now it is a very healthy budget at this level and perhaps at a higher level which shows our confidence in the manager and that we expect to win the league this season.

“We are not paying out this money to come second.”

Smith was unavailable for comment prior to the Worcester News going to press.