GRAYS boss Mark Stimson has stunned the Blues by quitting the club just two days after leading his side to a second successive FA Trophy.
Stimson, who joined the club in September 2002, has led the club through the most successful period of its 116 year history and he admits he has taken a huge gamble in turning down a three year contract offer from the club to chance his luck elsewhere.
"I'm gambling," said Stimson. "I've told the players that I've only been only to do this because of what they have done for me. But I'm prepared to gamble three years of employment, which I would have got at Grays, to see if I will get the chance to manage somewhere else."
The 37-year-old maintains he has not had concrete offers from any other clubs but he has been heavily linked to League Two side Milton Keynes Dons who split with their manager Danny Wilson last week.
And Stimson, who has been contacted by two clubs already, admits it would be a dream to step up to league football.
He said: "Ideally I will get the chance to move into league football but the jobs that are available another 40 managers also want. Hopefully an opportunity will come up and I will be able to take it because I can't live without football. If I didn't get anything I will go back to academy coaching or start up a soccer school."
Stimson, who has led Grays to two FA Trophys and the Conference South title, informed Blues chairman Mick Woodward on Tuesday morning and let the players know shortly after.
"It came as a big, big shock to the players," he said. "They didn't have any idea but I wanted to go out on a high. I've told them to keep their heads up and keep playing football and if they ever get down just look at your medal.
"I made my mind up after the Trophy win. The performance was so good and the whole day was special. I was devastated after going out of the play-offs. I really thought we would get into the league. The opportunity was there and I'm not sure it will come along again.
"I said afterwards that picking the players up was not a problem but getting myself right was hard because it was such a body blow. I really didn't think we would lose again this season. I thought we would beat Halifax, beat Woking and beat anyone we met in the play-off final.
Losing was such a blow and I wondered if we could go it again.
"Next year you have the likes of Weymouth, Oxford and Rushden and Diamonds coming into the league and it's going to be a big big test for whoever comes in.
"Then the way we played on Sunday and the crowd was just amazing and I thought what better way to end it. I wanted to announce it straight away but I didn't want to spoil the celebrations."
Stimson paid tribute to the Blues fans who have made his time at the New Rec so enjoyable and he reserved special praise for the man who appointed him three and a half years' ago.
"I've got so much to thank Micky Woodward for. Without him none of what this would have been possible and I need to bump into another man like him," he said.
The ex-Tottenham man couldn't rule out taking a side to the New Rec next season and hopes, if he does, he receives a warm ovation from the Blues faithful.
"I hope that if I come back to Grays at some point in the future then I would get a decent reception. I've had such a fantastic time at this club and have got so many memories and it would be nice for that to be recognised."
Chairman Mick Woodward said: "I would say to any League Chairman, contact Mark Stimson because he's one hell of a manager.
"Mark will take his next club to a new level. His footballing knowledge is second to none and the way he plays the game is different gravy."
Stimson's assistant Scott Barrett has also left the club.