Former Brighton & Hove Albion forward Darren Freeman is calling time on his Lewes reign and managerial career to pursue a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Freeman will take charge of Lewes for the last time on Saturday when they host Cray Wanderers after being offered a full-time role at German football sports agency SportsTotal.
Ross Standen and Tony Coade have been appointed as caretaker managers while the Rooks decide on their next step following the end of Freeman’s four year reign.
The former Fulham, Gillingham, Brentford and Brighton star, pictured, had already been working part-time for SportsTotal which is owned by his long-term friend Dirk Hebel.
In a statement on Friday announcing his imminent departure, officials at the Dripping Pan said their outgoing boss had told them it was an opportunity he “couldn’t turn down”.
Freeman will be remembered for guiding the Rooks to their first promotion in more than a decade when they returned to the Isthmian League’s Premier Division in 2018.
To show their appreciation, the club are urging fans to turn out in force on Saturday.
The Rooks said: “Darren has been working part-time for them for a few months and they have now offered him what he has described as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to take a full-time role within the company, something that Darren told us he ‘couldn’t turn down’.
“The club fully understands his position and of course wish him the very best in his expanding role. Darren will lead the team for the final time on Saturday,
“Ross Standen and Tony Coade will act as caretaker managers whilst the club decides on the next steps and we hope that as many fans as possible will make it to the game to show their support for the team, for Ross and Codge and also to say goodbye to Daz in the dug out.”
Lewes chairman Stuart Fuller added: “I’ve always enjoyed a close relationship with Darren and it was with genuine sadness that I accepted his decision, after many hours of discussing the future.
“He’s leaving a football club in a much better place and he will be a very hard act to follow. I am very thankful that Ross and Codge will step up for the foreseeable future, keeping the squad in safe hands.”
Hailing the Sussex club’s fans as “amazing”, Freeman thanked them for their support from the “bottom of his heart”.
He said: “All good things come to an end and today that moment has come for me as my time at this fantastic football club has come to an end. I have always prided myself on giving everything 100 per cent of my attention.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the miles you’ve driven, the trains you have ridden, games you’ve attended home and away and chants you’ve started. Your support has been amazing and something I will cherish and remember for ever.
“Unfortunately, my new role at SportsTotal simply does not allow me to give Lewes Football Club the attention it needs so it is with a heavy heart I have decided to step down as first team manager. I am not going to be a stranger at the football club and hope to see you all soon.”
In total, Freeman won 90 games, drew 54 and lost 68 since his switch from the Peacehaven hot-seat in 2015. His sides scored 365 goals while conceding 293 since he took the helm.