GRAHAM Kemp – the most successful manager in Christchurch’s history – has tonight resigned his post after taking the Wessex Premier outfit “as far as I could”, the Daily Echo can exclusively reveal.
Kemp, who took the reins at Hurn Bridge in April 2007, broke the news to his players following Priory's ill-deserved 3-1 defeat against leaders Downton at Wick Lane.
Assistant John Macey and coach Jim Totczyk are also expected to quit, although the trio have agreed to hold the fort until a suitable successor to Kemp has been appointed.
Kemp last season guided Priory to third place in Wessex Premier – their highest finishing position – and led the club to two cup finals, winning the League Cup and losing narrowly to Bemerton in the Russell-Cotes.
The 47-year-old, who also took Christchurch to the last 32 of the FA Vase in 2008-09, says he has no other job in the pipeline and plans to take a short break from the game. Kemp told the Daily Echo: “With the backing of a very supportive committee, the management team has taken the club to a new level and, realistically, we have probably gone as far as we can.
“To finish third and reach two cup finals last season was an exceptional achievement. Although we wanted to push on, the realisation is that it is probably not going to be possible.
“It is going to be very difficult to progress any further due to the financial restraints. The club is run properly, it has a true amateur status and has continued to compete with and upstage some big-spenders at this level. We don’t pay any of our players and I haven’t claimed a penny in expenses since I have been here.
“It has been an amazing five-and-a half years but all good things come to an end. We will stay on until the club finds someone to take over or until they ask us to go.
“John Macey, Jim Totczyk and me have been appreciative of the chance Christchurch gave us and I know they have appreciated what we have done for the club. We will shake hands with everybody when we go and it will be an amicable parting.”
During his tenure, Kemp nurtured the talents of Michael Green and Ben Dickenson who went on to sign professional contracts with Port Vale and Brighton, respectively, while current player Harry Cornick is attracting interest from a host of clubs.
Kemp added: “The policy is to promote young players and it is bearing fruit. A number of other players have gone on to perform at a higher level and that is pleasing to see. But like any other ambitious person, I would still like to be managing those players.
“It is frustrating for me and I know it is frustrating for the club. But unless you are prepared to go down the route of paying players and putting them on contracts, it is always going to be very difficult to keep them.
“I have been associated with the Wessex League for 20 years and have never really had the chance to watch games and relax. I am going to spend the next few months recharging my batteries. If it is good enough for Pep Guardiola, it is good enough for me!”