Sean Eardley has left Caernarfon Town after three years.
The fans’ favourite is taking over as manager at his hometown club, Llandudno, on a two-year contract.
He spent two spells in charge of the Canaries, leading them back to the Cymru Premier in 2018, but was replaced by Huw Griffiths in February.
In an open letter published on Monday, Eardley said he was stepping away from the Oval club with ”great sadness”.
Eardley arrived at The Oval during the summer of 2017, initially as assistant to Iwan Williams, now in charge of Ynys Môn’s men’s football squad.
But just a few months later, Williams’ sudden departure for Llandudno saw Eardley take charge as he guided the Canaries to the Huws Gray Alliance and a return to top-flight Welsh football for the first time in a decade.
That first season back in the Cymru Premier saw Caernarfon secure a top six finish and reach the Europa League play-offs, only to lose out to Cardiff Met in the semi-finals.
By that point, Eardley had been surprisingly replaced by former Rhyl and Connah’s Quay boss Allan Bickerstaff – an appointment which lasted only four months, before Eardley regained his managerial duties.
Caernarfon struggled to maintain their form last season, but secured another top six finish in January. The following month, Eardley was demoted to assistant again as the Cofis brought in Huw Griffiths, just hours after he was sacked by Cefn Druids.
The season was halted in March by the COVID-19 outbreak – and last month, the FAW declared the campaign over with Connah’s Quay crowned champions and Caernarfon narrowly missing out on a Europa League spot via a points-per-game system.
The club is now considering legal action against the decision.
As for Eardley, who has been the figurehead of the Cofi Army movement that has helped revive the club’s fortunes, he admitted having a ”stressful and emotional couple of days” since he was approached by Llandudno to replace Matthew Jones.
He said: ”I have spoken to lots of people to try and aid me with a decision but realised ultimately it would come down to me and doing what’s right for me and my family at this time.”
”An opportunity has arisen to manage my hometown club Llandudno and I feel the day to day stresses of top flight Welsh domestic football would again eventually become a little too much.”
”Some may argue that the stresses may continue, but I’ve considered my own personal life when reaching a decision and concentrated a little less on the football aspect.”
”Caernarfon Town, none more so than the board, gave me my first opportunity in management and for that I will be forever indebted.”
”We won promotion to the JD Cymru Premier after remaining unbeaten during the remaining eighteen games of that season, we defied pundits and doubters alike in our return to the top flight, finishing fourth and just missing out in the play-offs, not to mention a memorable night for supporters at Nantporth in January 2019.”
”This season was going brilliantly until the Covid-19 pandemic hit. We secured another top six finish and one better in the Welsh Cup with a semi-final appearance.”
”The players have been nothing short of tremendous for me and there were some tough phone calls to make…but I hope they enjoyed playing for me with a sense of pride pulling on the yellow and green.”
”My management have been like family, they have been a pleasure to work alongside and I wish them all the best in the near future!”
”Lastly, to the best supporters around, my decision may be met with confusion and dismay from some, but believe me when I say it was a pleasure and privilege leading your team out week after week and I believe from when I took over to this present day, the team is in a better position now.”
”A lot of you have become friends and I hope that remains, along with the upmost respect and dignity I have toward you all. Diolch am bopeth Cofi Army!”
Griffiths, for his part, is keeping faith in his management team – with Richard Davies promoted as his right-hand man, while Kev Sheret continues as goalkeeping coach and Rhys Jones stays on as physio.
Reacting to the departure, club chairman Paul Evans paid tribute to Eardley’s ”tremendous work” in his time at Caernarfon.
He said: ”Sean has made an invaluable contribution to Caernarfon Town since he joined us. He arrived at the Oval with a smile and has kept smiling throughout his time with us.”
”I remember speaking with him about taking over from Iwan and he told me he would only do it on an interim basis until we got someone else in. Thankfully, he soon changed his mind and we as a club have reaped the rewards.”
”He led us to promotion and two consecutive top six finishes in the Cymru Premier League and would, I am sure, have taken us into Europe at the end of this campaign if things had been different.”
”Sean has been an absolute pleasure to work with and has done a magnificent job for us. Our progress under his stewardship has been obvious for everyone to see and he leaves a great foundation for future success. He has raised the bar for the club on and off the field and we are determined as a Board to take advantage of the work he has done.”
”Llandudno is a good club that has suffered a challenging time in recent seasons and with Sean at the helm they certainly have a chance of turning things around there.”
”We will all miss his infectious personality and permanent smile and wish him, Lisa and all the Eardley family well in everything they do in the future.”
In a statement, a Llandudno FC spokesperson said Eardley had a ”rich history” with the Cymru North club, as a player, coach and part of the management team who led them to a Europa League spot in 2016.
They added: ”As a club we are thrilled to have secured the services of such a well respected and popular figure within the game, and delighted that Sean has bought in to the project that we have set out in front of us.”