SALISBURY City have been left managerless after Mikey Harris has quit to take on a youth team role at boyhood club Portsmouth.
The 29-year-old leaves his full-time post at financially troubled Whites after one season in charge to manage Pompey under 18s.
Harris had renewed his contract at Whites last month and was set to be head coach when the squad returns for pre-season on Monday.
But, after the club was relegated from Conference Premier to Conference South due to outstanding debts not being settled, he was left considering his future.
On his return from honeymoon with new wife Sarah Gomme, the UEFA A licensed coach had talks with joint owner Mark Winter. While discussions were being had with Mr Winter, Pompey, a club he played for and supported at Fratton Park as a youngster, offered him a youth team role.
“I would like to thank the players, staff and supporters at Salisbury City for their support during my time at the club. I leave with some great memories of some special achievements,” the departing boss said, who exercised a clause in his contract to join the League Two club.
“As assistant manager, I suffered Whites’ last demotion due to off the field issues and I hoped it was something I would never experience again. I share the fans’ disappointment that the club is not going to be competing in the top level of non-league football this season.
“I wish everyone associated with Salisbury City luck for both the immediate and long-term future.”
Harris became football’s youngest manager at the age of 28 when he replaced Darrell Clarke last July. He guided the Whites to a 12th place finish on their return to the highest level of non-league as well as enjoying a trip to Port Vale in the FA Cup second round.
He told the Journal in April he had ambitions to manage at a higher level, and will now start his new venture with Pompey’s academy side following Paul Hardyman’s switch to the first team.
He added: “The opportunity to work at Portsmouth is one that excites me greatly. It is a huge club with an incredible set of fans and the club I grew up with. I am delighted to take up the role of youth team manager and look forward to working with the staff at Pompey to help develop the young players.”
On-going financial problems restricted Harris from making many signings last season, working with about £400,000 under former chairman William Harrison-Allan.
Mr Harrison-Allan recently sold the club, which was on the verge of bankruptcy, for a pound to Mr Winter and Moroccan-businessman Otail Touzar, taking on £160,000 worth of debts.
Since then, Mr Winter has ploughed roughly £75,000 into the club but his partner, Mr Touzar, is yet to invest and has been banned. Mr Winter is currently working to get Mr Touzar to sign his shares over to him. If this was the case, Mr Winter believes Harris would have stayed put.
“I'm devastated to lose Mikey and I feel he would have stayed if Otail Touzar had not remained as the owner of the club,” said Mr Winter, 47, “but as the legal fight to remove him continues, Mikey has decided with a heavy heart to leave. For him and Sarah we can all understand the reasons for coming to this decision.”
The Whites have until 5pm on Friday (July 4) to pay their football creditors and secure a bond of £50,000, otherwise they face being expelled from the Conference.
• Elliott Frear is the latest player to leave Salisbury. Frear has gone to Forest Green Rovers on a two-year deal.
Brian Dutton (Havant and Waterlooville)
Jamie White (Bristol Rovers)
Clovis Kamdjo (Forest Green Rovers)
Luke Ruddick (Sutton United)
Callum Hart (Sutton United)
Glenn Wilson (Aldershot Town)
Elliott Frear (Forest Green Rovers)