GRAYS Athletic chairman Mick Woodward has sprung a surprise by appointing high profile manager Garry Hill as Director of Football.

The former Hornchurch and Dagenham & Redbridge boss departed Conference side Weymouth two weeks ago when the Terras chairman Martyn Harrison drastically slashed the club's budget.

It was something of a recurring theme for Hill, one of non-league football's more flamboyant characters. He was in charge of Hornchurch when they all but went bust three seasons ago.

At the time Hill said: ""I'm not being conceited but there's no point in me staying at a club which can't afford me."

Ironically Grays profited from the situation as many of Hill's players switched to the New Rec and formed the basis of the side that went on to win the Conference South and the FA Trophy.

Hill has been appointed on a non-contract basis until the end of the season with Grays spokesman Kevin Lamb saying that he remained a free agent and might well leave if a suitable management opportunity came up.

A Grays club statement said: "Justin Edinburgh remains manager of Grays Athletic; Chairman Mick Woodward has appointed Garry for his knowledge of the non-league circuit and is keen to tap into this knowledge in the quest to strengthen the current squad and to assist in turning around the form."

Before his stay at Hornchurch was cut short, Hill's manageemnt record included guiding Dagenham & Redbridge to five successive top-five finishes in the Conference. This season Weymouth made a bright start to life back in the Conference and are still challenging for a play-off spot.

They beat Grays when the sides met in the Conference at the end of last year, but Grays returned a few days later to knock Hill's side out of the FA Trophy.

Hill's departure and the financial turmoil at Weymouth has sparked controversy among Terras' fans, with many criticising Harrison, who announced Hill's departure by saying: "When I became chairman I gave an undertaking that the main priority for me was to ensure the long term future of 'The Terras'.

"It is my belief that prudent management of resources is vital to the long term success of any organisation - Weymouth football Club is no exception to this.

"It became essential, therefore, for us to re-evaluate where we were going and I was not prepared to make any hasty decisions without an exhaustive review of all of our activities. In the event, it became obvious to the board and I that to survive we would have to make certain that our income and expenditure were more appropriately matched to take account of our future financial projections.

"We have no other option than to reduce our costs and whilst this is painful for us, we are confident that we have made the right decisions.

"As a consequence of the review and by mutual consent, Garry Hill and Kevin Hales have left the Club. I want to stress that they have not been sacked and they have been treated with the utmost respect. They are true professionals and I want to publicly thank both Garry and Kevin for everything they have done for us during the past 22 months."

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