Steve McKimm says the timing of his shock sacking from Tonbridge will stay with him for the rest of his career.
McKimm was dismissed just 24 hours after Angels secured National League South safety - his remit for the season.
It was a bolt out of the blue for the long-serving boss, who departs along with No.2 Barry Moore, after an eight-year reign which saw them win promotion and reach the FA Cup first round for the first time in almost half a century.
As well as clinching survival this year, McKimm also led Tonbridge on their best-ever FA Trophy run, beating National League sides Torquay and King’s Lynn en route to the last 16 before bowing out on penalties to Bromley, all on a modest budget.
McKimm was already planning for next season, with two friendlies arranged and a meeting next week with a “high-profile player who wanted to play for us”.
He’d also been involved, along with Moore, in discussing requirements for Angels’ new 3G pitch, which will be laid this summer.
But he’s out of work after a board meeting to discuss next season’s budget led to a phone call from director Sophie Purves at 7.40pm on Tuesday night saying she needed to see him face-to-face.
They met at a hotel where Purves explained the board had unanimously agreed McKimm had taken Tonbridge as far as he could.
The manner of his sacking has hurt McKimm, who says the decision could have been made before the weekend.
That would have given him the chance to say goodbye to the fans at Longmead where a crowd of 1,238 saw Angels beat Eastbourne 2-0 to preserve their National South status with a game to spare. They finish the season at St Albans this Saturday.
“I’m disappointed that, after eight years, this decision was made at a budget meeting and I couldn’t have the proper send-off that I felt me and Barry deserved from our fans,” said McKimm.
“If the board knew something like this was going to happen - these things brew and come to a head, they don’t happen in one day - the decision could have been made on Sunday and I could have said goodbye to our supporters on Monday.
“I was asked if I wanted to take the St Albans game on Saturday but I refused because I’ve been sacked by the club, that’s the end of it, and I don’t want to start making it all about me when the team have got a game to win.
“The difference is, if they’d said on Sunday we’re letting you go, we’re not renewing your contract, even though I would have gone into Monday’s game knowing that was it, it would have given me that opportunity to say goodbye to the fans that have supported me over eight years, through good and bad.
“To not get that is the thing that hurts the most, that I didn’t get to say goodbye, when you’ve done something for so long.
“I felt I brought the club back together from where it was after relegation from Conference South.
“All good things come to an end, I know that, it’s the way it’s been done that I’m not happy about.
“That will sit with me for the rest of my career.
“It’s very hard to take, not because of what’s been done, but how it’s been done.
“I’ve been in football long enough to know certain things happen.
“I’m not bitter about anything, I’m just disappointed in the way it had to happen.
“There’s no right or wrong way to sack someone but after eight years’ service, after everything we’ve been through - the highs and the lows, everything a non-league manager has to go through - it could have been handled differently.
“It's something that wasn’t expected, it was a bolt out of the blue.
“Normally I’m quite good at sensing things, it might be a player having problems at home and you have a chat with him about things, but I never saw this coming.
“Especially after the game on Monday, winning and speaking to board members in the bar and outside, like normal.
“It hit me for six, I’m not going to lie, as it would anyone.
“I can’t speak highly enough about the club, I’m just disappointed in the way it’s ended.
“I’ve always said managers are going to be surplus eventually, regardless of what they do, because someone thinks something can be done better or a change is needed.
“I understand that but what I can’t get my head around is how it’s been done.
“I already had two pre-season games sorted out and I was meeting a player next week, a high-profile player, who wanted to come and play for us.
“I was working towards next season because I knew we’d be safe, I knew where we’d be and my job was to make us better next year, but I’ve not been given the chance.”
McKimm announced his sacking on Twitter, which was followed by a club statement.
The statement pointed to a return of “just 10 league victories” and “a meagre 40 goals scored” - something McKimm, who’s been inundated with messages of support on social media, had already discussed with the board and his players.
“I’d identified where we’d gone wrong,” said McKimm.
“Although we had the sixth best defence, I knew we hadn’t scored enough goals and that had to be rectified.
“That was in my plan, I’d already told the board that, but they decided I wasn’t the man to take them forward.
“I was told all season we were playing good football, just not getting the rub of the green, which at times I agreed with and other times I felt we weren’t good enough, but that’s me being honest.
“If you look at the second half of the season there’s been a big improvement and if you look at points-per-game we’d be a lot higher on the second half of the season, so there were steps in the right direction.
“From day one, I’ve worked with a restricted budget and, as a group, we’ve done well. I’m not saying we’ve done excellent, but we’ve done well.
“My remit was to stay in the league and we did that.
“It’s a hard league. If you can’t learn from your mistakes and identify where things haven’t gone right, then you’re blinded by your own arrogance.
“But I knew where things weren’t right, I knew what needed to be changed and I’d expressed that to everybody, even the players in the changing room.
“I told them the goals-for column wasn’t good enough, and that’s everybody, not just one person.
“I told them our defence was second to none, and again that’s everybody, because we defend from the front.”
McKimm is keen to make a quick return to the dugout.
He shouldn’t be short of offers but the former Gravesend and Margate midfielder is taking nothing for granted.
“There’s a lot more jobs out there for players than there are managers,” said McKimm.
“If I get offers, great, because I’m someone who loves my football, I really do love it and it means things to me.
“I’d like to think me and Barry have done well enough for people to recognise we’re quite good at what we do.
“If something comes along, great, we’d love to be involved.
“Every player, manager or coach will tell you the same - you always want to be involved in football.
“Jobs don’t come round easily but you can’t be out too long because people forget you.”