DANNY Heale says he has “grown as a person and a manager” since taking the reins at Canvey Island FC.

The Gulls boss is still in his infancy as a manager, having only taken over from former Southend United favourite Steve Tilson in May 2013, but he admits he has grown a lot in those 15 months.

Having finished 13th in the division last season, 33-year-old Heale feels his side is much better equipped to challenge for a play-off place this year and, aside from a blip at perennial bogey-team East Thurrock United, the Gulls’ have started this season with intent.

They have picked up wins against Bognor Regis and Peacehaven & Telscombe and on Tuesday night staged a remarkable comeback to draw 4-4 with Met Police.

The Gulls were trailing 4-1 with nine minutes to go but a double from Marlon Agyakwa and a late equaliser from Jay Curran – his second goal of the game – earned Heale’s men an unlikely point.

“Last year was all about building and we have done that well,” asserts Heale. “We have goalscorers, creative players and solidity at the back.

“The players we have brought in have fitted in very well. We have a lot more physicality and pace in the side than when I took over.

“The likes of (Anthony) Thomas, (Victor) Osobu and (John) Easterford coming in have been great for the team – bringing experience and quality.

“Goalkeeper Danzelle (St Louis- Hamilton) has been terrific as well.

His performance against Peacehaven & Telscombe, for example, was exemplary and it is a position I am very pleased to have secured, with two good keepers (including Melvin Minter) to choose from.”

Heale had a successful playing career with Canvey and Concord Rangers, with the ex-forward still holding the record for goals scored in one season in the Essex Senior League (46).

But he said his spell as manager has helped further him as an individual and made him stronger.

“It takes up a lot of your free time, but I am lucky enough to have been able to dedicate a lot of my time to it,” he said.

“I have had the right people around me and had to make some hard decisions but these have made me a stronger person and manager.

“Me and Brad (Wellmen – coach) are now working with a very experienced group of players and I have learnt a lot from them.

“This season our performance levels have been high and if we maintain our fitness levels we know we can achieve good things.”