LENNY Piper has paid tribute to the "magnificent" support of Farnborough Town fans after the club finally admitted defeat in their bid to hang onto him and his brother Chris.
Ever-popular Lenny expressed his disappointment at not being able to agree terms with chairman Vic Searle and manager Tommy Taylor on Tuesday — claiming he never wanted to leave Cherrywood Road.
But with the club's coffers so restricted in the wake of Graham Westley's departure, it meant that the Chris and Lenny's wage demands were beyond them - especially with them both being such hot property in the non-League game at the moment.
The dynamo duo are currently the subject of a seven-club tug-of-war which also includes Boro's neighbours Aldershot Town and Dagenham & Redbridge.
As a result, both are likely to land lucrative deals no matter where they go.
Taylor and Mr Searle met up with the Pipers at Fisher Athletic's ground in south London on Tuesday to discuss figures, although neither were confident that they could match any other offer that both had already received.
Despite the fact that both Lenny and Chris wanted to stay at Farnborough, Taylor's fears were confirmed and the management duo were forced to release the crowd favourites in order to balance the books.
Lenny told the News: "Tommy and Vic said that they couldn't afford to keep me or Chris, I'm very disappointed because I never wanted to leave, but, to an extent, it was taken out of my hands.
"I had three great years at Farnborough and I'll never forget the fans who made Chris and I feel so welcome. I think they appreciated me as a player and I certainly appreciated the support they gave me, especially when things weren't going quite so well.
"Chris and I have been the lowest two paid players at the club in all the time we have been there.
"When we arrived, we were brought by Graham Westley as free agents from the Ryman League so our wages were pretty low, and we could not agree on an extended contract. I've been playing for the love of the club for a long time.
"But I've now received some substantial offers to continue my career and for the sake of my family, I'd be silly not to take one of them up. It's disappointing for me, however, that I won't be playing for Farnborough next season."
So, after three successful years at the club he loves, Lenny Piper is now a free agent - and he is hating every minute of it.
"It's driving me mad," he said. "I've been meeting clubs almost every day after work and the phone is ringing all the time. This is supposed to be a time to forget about football but you can't. There's no break at all."
Lenny alone has had three lucrative offers from Conference clubs and one from the Football League, while Chris has had similar interest.
Indeed, out of the seven clubs that have enquired, six, including the Shots, want Lenny and Chris as a package, although that will not necessarily be the case.
Lenny continued: "I have been trying to encourage Chris to go full-time. At 21 he has far more time on his hands than I do and I would like nothing more than to see him succeed because I know he is capable of doing it.
"Full-time wouldn't be a problem for me as I only work as a courier, and at 25, I think I could still do someone a job. But personally I'm happy to stay in the Conference.
"Chris and I have been together at our last two clubs and I think we play really well together. We are very close and it has helped us both to have each other there.
"But it really is only a co-incidence that we are both free agents at the same time. We don't come as a package as a lot of people seem to think, although I would prefer to play alongside him than against him."
Lenny believes that his loyal band of followers will enjoy success at Farnborough next season — with or without him and Chris.
Stating that the Farnborough result will be the first one he looks for on a Saturday evening, Lenny's affinity with the club remains. And with Taylor and coach Ian McDonald at the helm, he's half expecting Boro to make a comeback into the higher reaches of the table.
He concluded: "In Tommy and Macca the club have two very good coaches and if the club can generate the right sort of money needed to consolidate a Conference place, then Farnborough are capable of finishing either top six or top eight come the end of the season.
"Both men really impressed me in the short time I worked with them and with the experience and knowledge that they possess, I'm sure they can continue to make the Farnborough fans happy.
"Hopefully I'll come down in the pre-season to watch a game because I really want to say goodbye properly to the fans, Vince Williams and everyone else associated with the club who have become good friends to me over the last three years."
Speaking about the Pipers' departure, Mr Searle added: "Lenny and Chris have been offered more money to play elsewhere — money we just can't compete with at the moment.
"Both were on the lower end of the scale in terms of wages in the days of Graham Westley and you can't blame them now for wanting to make some money out of their talents - even though they both clearly wanted to stay.
"It is not the end of the world, however. I naturally wish both Lenny and Chris all the best for the future but we are confident that we have players lined up to fit the bill — at a bill we can foot."
Lenny Piper also confirmed to the News that he has spoken to Aldershot manager Terry Brown about playing at the Rec next season, but no offer has been put on the table.
The pair are due to meet again soon.