DARRELL CLARKE has spoken for the first time since his departure as manager of Bristol Rovers last week.
Rovers parted company with Clarke after winning just four of their opening 21 league games, which left them in the relegation zone.
Clarke had been at the Memorial Stadium for nearly six years.
In a statement issued to the League Managers Association, Clarke said: “I would like to begin by saying what a privilege it has been to work for Bristol Rovers Football Club over the past five-and-a-half years; firstly as assistant manager and then as manager from March 2014 onwards.
“I have been fortunate enough to develop a special bond with the club’s incredible supporters and I will always be thankful to them for the way they backed me, the staff and the players.
“Together, we have created some incredible memories; returning to the Football League at the first attempt at Wembley Stadium, then following this up with automatic promotion to League One. Those days and many others are etched in our minds and are something we can all take great pride in.
“However, this season has been a disappointment for me. I want to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone connected with the club for the results so far. It’s not for the want of the lads trying. They have given me and the staff everything, always working hard and believing in each other. They are an honest bunch and I wish them the best for this season.
“Last Thursday was simply the saddest of days, saying my goodbyes to everyone at the club. It’s a day that none of us wanted to experience, but that’s football. However, my last words to the players were a reminder that it would be even sadder if the club went backwards from here. I know the supporters will continue to back the lads, as they always have, and I wish caretaker manager Graham Coughlan all the best and hope they can climb the table soon.
“A special mention must go to Marcus Stewart, who has supported me superbly as my assistant. I have built strong relationships with the President, board members, owners, past and present staff and players and fans, and I will look back on my time at Rovers with real fondness.
“As for my own future, I have already spoken to colleagues within the game and I plan to watch some games, and will visit my peers and watch other coaches and players in action at their training grounds. I am a student of the game and you never stop learning as a manager. This will give me the chance to re-evaluate and prepare myself for the next challenge. I love football and I am excited about the next project, and what I can bring to that club, wherever that may be.
“In the meantime, I will enjoy spending time over Christmas with my family, which is something people in football are not often afforded, and will acknowledge the incredible, unwavering support they give to me.
“I wish everyone at Bristol Rovers Football Club nothing but love and success for the future. Please know that it has been a real honour to work for you.”