Gills former Assistant boss Andy Hessenthaler reveals how tough it was to leave Priestfield

Andy Hessenthaler said it was a very difficult decision to leave Gillingham as Assistant Manager.

The 49-year old decided to leave MEMS Priestfield Stadium last week and join former team-mate and colleague Ian Hendon at Leyton Orient, and although the choice gave him a few sleepless nights, Hess believed the time was right to explore a new challenge elsewhere.

Speaking to gillinghamfootballclub.com he said: “Ian became Leyton Orient Manager a few weeks back so I phoned him and congratulated him before I went on holiday.

“I came back and it [the offer] came straight out of the blue. He said he needed someone else alongside him with a bit of experience, we’ve known each other for a long time – we’ve played together and worked together before and he just asked the question.

“He knew I was at Gillingham and was enjoying myself but he asked whether I would consider it. I had a few days, chatted with the Chairman and then with the gaffer and I just felt the change, a new challenge and a new environment would be good.

“I got on really well with Justin and we built up a strong relationship over a short period of time and he’s done fantastic. I just felt it was something I needed to do for me, he respected that – it wasn’t easy but the more I thought about it the more I thought it was a good opportunity.

“I’ve only ever managed and coached at Gillingham and I thought this challenge would be good for me.”

Hessenthaler confirmed his return to Priestfield last summer as Peter Taylor’s Assistant Manager, and soon found himself in caretaker charge when the former England U21 boss left his post in December.

Darren Hare, Steve Lovell and Mark Patterson shared the role up until February 7 when Justin Edinburgh was confirmed as the Gills new Manager.

Hess admitted it was an eventful season and thanked the fans for the support they have shown him.

He added: “I was sad to see Peter go – he signed some good players, look at Max Ehmer for instance who has done very well.

“Brennan Dickenson, John Egan and Luke Norris to name a few of the others.

“Myself, Darren, Patto and Steve took over and got some good results – we put things together and then Justin came in so all in all it was very eventful.

“The fans have been fantastic, I’ve had to say goodbye once more and sadly, I’m sure it will be the last time I do so.

“There might be a small minority that didn’t like me around the club but the majority of fans appreciate what I’ve done for the Football Club and I wish them all the best.”

The challenge for Hessenthaler, and Ian Hendon now, is to try and bring Leyton Orient back to League One following their relegation at the end of last season.

Andy said a strong start will be very important if that target is to be achieved.

He added: “It’s a big challenge, a lot went on last year at the Football Club and we need to get them back to the first division where they belong. It’s a good group of players there, Ian’s added to what was already there and we will build.

“It’s a club that has just had that real disappointment and it’s never easy to pick up the pieces and bounce back but that’s what we’ve got to do.

“We need to get off to a good start and hopefully we can have a really good season.”