FORMER Grays Athletic favourite Joao Carlos has backed the club to come through its current difficulties and admitted leaving was a very tough decision to make.

Carlos leads the list for all-time record appearances for Blues, having turned out 265 times for the club during a five year stint, although he joined National League South side Concord Rangers last month on a dual-registration basis.

His departure follows the announcement that owner Andy Swallow would be stepping aside from the day-to-day running of the club, with a select panel of supporters leading the club heading forwards.

And the Portuguese winger said leaving the club was one of the hardest decisions he has had to make although he said the time was right for a new challenge.

“It was really difficult leaving Grays as I was really close with the boys, staff and fans,” said Carlos. “I had been there for five years so it was never going to be easy.

“I was one of the last ones to leave as, in my head, I was thinking about staying until some of the lads I was really close with moved on.

“That was when the thought of pursuing a new challenge came into my head. I actually left because I thought it was time to test myself in a new league and experience something completely new.”

Carlos’ 73 goals are also a club record, and the tricky wide man has hit the ground running at Concord, scoring his first goal since making the move on Saturday, in a 2-0 victory at Basingstoke Town that lifted the Essex outfit to within a point of the play-offs.

The winger has not had much to cheer about in recent weeks, with Grays on a rotten seven-match losing run with just three league fixtures remaining, although they remain safely in mid-table.

The news that Swallow would be leaving followed the departures of Dumebi Dumaka and Jay Leader with Luke Ifil, Sean Cronin, Kenny Beaney, Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson, Nicky Symons and others departing soon after.

But Carlos has faith that Grays will bounce back, while admitting he had other offers on the table before deciding to move to Concord.

“I believe that Grays will be fine in the future,” he said. “Things are just at the rebuilding stage at the moment so I have no negative feeling that the club will bounce back.

“I did have few options but I felt Concord was the better option for me and would allow me to challenge and express myself in a league that I'm not familiar with.

“It is an exciting challenge.”