Sean Ray has experienced a rollercoaster 21 months as player-manager of Hastings United Football Club.
The 32-year-old’s tenure came to an end yesterday (Wednesday) when he resigned as boss, a position he has held since taking over from Jason Hopkinson in late October 2011.
Ray and Mark Stapley initially took over in a caretaker capacity, but wins over Horsham (5-0) and Aveley (1-0) in their first two games led to Ray being appointed player-manager and Stapley assistant manager.
Central defender Ray steered the club to safety in the 2011/12 season despite some topsy-turvy form after Christmas, securing their Ryman League Premier Division status with a notable win away to Lowestoft Town on the penultimate weekend.
United achieved back-to-back league wins early in the 2012/13 campaign before pulling off their first FA Cup victory in six years against Chatham Town. That proved the start of an unbelievable run in the world’s most decorated domestic knockout competition which ended with two of Ray’s finest moments in football.
Ray and his players were the toast of the town after a second round replay win over Harrogate Town on penalties which was televised lived on ESPN as over 4,000 fans packed into The Pilot Field. That was followed by a gallant 4-1 defeat against Championship outfit Middlesbrough at The Riverside Stadium in January.
United’s league form couldn’t match their cup run, however, and a three-and-a-half month stretch without a win contributed heavily to their relegation at the end of the campaign. Ray had been set to stay and try to guide the club back up, but alas the job will now be up to someone else.
See tomorrow’s Hastings Observer for Ray’s reasoning for leaving.