'I was a mess' - Aussie Montemurro stepping down as Arsenal coach

Joe Montemurro looks on prior to an Arsenal Women match Source: Getty Images

Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro has revealed how he was a "mess" when he told the players of the Women's Super League side about his tough decision to leave the club at the end of the season after a successful four-year tenure.

The Australian has been in the job since November 2017 and guided the Gunners to the 2018-19 Women's Super League title as well as the League Cup in 2018.

Arsenal said in a statement that Montemurro, whose side are currently fourth in the WSL table, had "decided to take a professional break to recharge and dedicate more time to spending with his family".

The 51-year-old Montemurro, well-liked and respected throughout the sport, said he had made the decision in February and that it had been "the hardest professional decision of my life, as I absolutely love this job and this club, the club I have supported all my life."

"Probably just after the return this season there were some things I needed to resolve and look at but the decision happened in February and we decided that this was the best time to announce it going forward," Montemurro told reporters.

He told the players, who include Matildas Caitlin Foord, Steph Catley and Lydia Williams, at training and explained it was an emotional decision to leave the club.

"You should have seen me an hour ago when I told the players. I was a mess. I was waffling on, I didn't even know what I was saying to be honest. It was really hard, really, really hard," said Montemurro.

"I think the biggest thing I was scared of when I told Vinai (Venkatesham, chief executive) and Clare (Wheatley, development manager) was that they'd be upset and never let me back into the club, but they've been absolutely amazing.

"I can sit here and safely say that I will be forever part of the Arsenal family and I was one of the lucky ones that got to work here and give my all and meet some amazing people.

"So that was the scariest thing for me to be honest, to think that they'd be upset and all that but everyone's been amazing and the club have been absolute class."

Montemurro has been in continuous management for nine years, with Melbourne City's women's and men's sides before joining Arsenal in 2017, and he's had to split time with his family, some of whom remained in Australia during his tenure at the Gunners.

He added: "It's been an amazing journey but I think now is the right time. It just seems like the right time and feels like the right time.

"I think I'm leaving the place in a better shape for it to go to the next level and they will find someone fantastic who'll take it to the next level."

His impending departure brought tributes from opponents, including Chelsea manager Emma Hayes.

"What a great guy. I think he cared deeply for his players. We had some good battles, I enjoyed them," said Hayes.

"I think it's always difficult being the manager of Arsenal, following Vic Akers, for anyone. I wish him the best because he's a super coach and super guy and I think he will be missed at Arsenal."

Source AAP