East Grinstead Town Football Club manager Matt Longhurst has left his role to become assistant manager at Hastings United.
Longhurst fills the void at Hastings left by the departure of Steve Watt, who was named manager of National League South side Margate last Friday.
Grinstead chairman Richard Tramontin told the club website: “We are obviously shocked at this news but I’d like to thank Matt for his efforts since he took over in October 2015. He has put in place a clear philosophy in terms of how he wanted the team to play and the type of player to carry it out, with a structure in place that will hopefully enable us to develop more home-grown first team players in the future.
“We’re disappointed that Matt is not going to be around to continue his hard work but we respect his wishes to develop his own career in management and wish him all the best in his new role.
“We have asked Craig Haylor and Ben Burns, who have worked with Matt as part of his management team, to take charge on an interim basis, starting at Herne Bay on Saturday. In addition, Drew Cooney is going to take on a player-coach role, also with immediate effect.
“We believe they will give us the continuity we need at this time and will be giving them our full support.”
Longhurst departs with Grinstead lying 17th in Ryman Football League Division One South - 12 places and 26 points behind play-off chasing Hastings. The teams fought out a thrilling 4-4 draw right at the start of 2017.
Longhurst told the club website: “It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to move on to pastures new to progress my own managing and coaching career.
“The club has made big progress over the last 14 months and there are some fantastic people at the club. The players and staff have been a great credit to themselves and I wish them all the best for the future.
“I have ambitions to work as high as I can and to fulfil this I need to continue to learn and progress myself and this is the sole reason for leaving.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank Richard and Brian for giving me the opportunity to manage the club and all the staff and people behind the scenes. A big thank you to the players who have been fantastic and the supporters who have been so welcoming and supportive.
“I will follow Grinstead’s results closely and look forward to visiting the GAC as a supporter at some stage.”
Hastings manager Darren Hare said that Longhurst, who was previously at Erith & Belvedere and Corinthian, has done ‘a terrific job’ to keep Grinstead well clear of relegation danger.
Hare said: “One of the things I did lean on Steve a lot for was his contacts and knowledge of players, and Matt I think supersedes that. I think he will be a valuable addition to us. I’ve known him a long time and he’s someone I can trust.”
The Hastings manager believes that Longhurst’s extensive knowledge of players will be useful as he contemplates topping up his squad for the closing weeks of the season.