GARY Bailey admitted his call to step down as manager of Portland United was “the hardest decision I have ever had to make in football”.

The manager, who has masterminded Portland’s meteoric rise to becoming Wessex Premier Division champions this season, made the shock decision to resign from his position after a meeting with the club earlier today.

Bailey sealed three league titles and a runners-up spot during his four-year tenure at Grove Corner.

He insisted he was set to take a break from the game at a coaching level and has “no short-term or long-term plans to get back involved”.

In an exclusive interview with Echosport, having announced his decision to exit the club, Bailey said: “It’s the hardest decision I have ever had to make in football.

“It’s been four years’ hard work to get to where we are and, juggling work and getting the time off and stuff to fully commit to the job was getting harder and harder.”

He added: “It was only fair on the club, the players and everybody else that I made the decision sooner rather than later, so that things could be put in place moving forward.

“I have a great relationship with the club and the committee. That was one of the reasons why I made the decision as quickly as I did, because of the respect I have got for them. I wouldn’t want to put the club in a difficult situation.

“There are no bad feelings. I have had tremendous support from the committee for the whole time I have been at the club, they have backed me in everything I’ve wanted to do.”

On his future plans, Bailey added: “I am going to take a break, I have no short-term or long-term plans to get back involved at any level of football.

“There is no ulterior motive to step away, then step straight back into something else.

“I have been managing since I was 24 years old, that’s more than 20 years of organising and making decisions and the commitment that goes with it.

“I am still going to watch a lot of football and, of course, I’ll be up to watch the lads at Portland play.

“I have had some kind messages from the players about my time in charge and they are a great bunch. I will miss the dressing room and all that goes with it but they will move on.”

Speaking on behalf of the club, Blues’ chairman Robin Satherley told Echosport: “I know I echo the thoughts of the management committee, the players and supporters of Portland United Football Club when I say that we are obviously very disappointed that Gary has decided to relinquish the post of first-team manager.

“But, at the same time, we fully understand the reasons for his decision.

“He has been a fantastic manager over the four seasons that he has been with the club having won the Dorset Premier League, Wessex Division One and the Wessex Premier League championships.

“However, the club has to move on, and we are actively seeking applicants for the post of first-team manager.”

Interested applicants should contact chairman Robin Satherley on 01305 820389 or 07513953778.