Grays Athletic legend Jamie Stuart has been unveiled as the Ryman Premier club’s new manager.
The fans favourite, who won the FA Trophy twice with the club in 2005 and 2006, was named on Tuesday night as the successor to Mark Bentley.
After interviewing a number of the candidates for the vacant post last week, delighted officials hailed the 39-year-old on Tuesday night as the “ideal” choice to lead them into next season.
An England U18s, U21s and England C international, the defender kicked off his career at Charlton Athletic before moving on to Southend United, Millwall and Bury. In Non-League, he has enjoyed spells with Hornchurch, Rushden & Diamonds, AFC Wimbledon, Sutton United and most recently Margate.
Grays fans will not need reminding that Stuart spent the longest period of his career in their colours, having joined in November 2004. During his five seasons he played a key role in the team that won the Conference South, two FA Trophies and competed in the Conference National play-offs.
In total, he made 229 appearances and captained the side in 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. He was also the club’s player of the year in 2007-08.
A club spokesman said: “After interviewing a number of candidates it was clear in our mind that Jamie was the ideal person to move the club forward. His passion for Grays Athletic, coupled with his professionalism and the contacts he has in the game, made him the ideal choice.”
“We are sure that this appointment will be widely welcomed by our supporters and we are sure that they will join us in giving Jamie a very warm welcome to the club. News of Jamie’s management and coaching team will be announced in due course.”
Stuart said: “I’m very excited to be given the opportunity to manage Grays Athletic FC. I did have various options and a number of other clubs were interested but my mind was made up as soon as this position became available.
“I know it’s going to be a tough task but there is no one more ambitious and hungry than me. I hope to arrange a supporters Q & A within the coming weeks. I cannot wait to come home to the club I love.”
“I had the best time of my career playing for Grays and met and made some good friends at the club. Grays Athletic feels like home to me and I’m very excited and keen to get back and start the ball rolling in July.
“I have already started making preparations for next season. I’m currently talking to players, arranging pre-season friendlies etc. I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve as a player and always give my everything. I believe at 39 with my experience and contacts in football I can be a successful manager for Grays.”
He added: “I’m interviewing personnel, coaches, assistants and physios. And will take my time and make sure I make the right decisions. I’ve got some very good people around me who want to help me bring back the happy memories we had at Grays with promotions, FA trophy wins to name a few.”