Manager Ricky Marheineke faces a mammoth task to replace promotion hero Steven Gentle following his St Ives Town departure

Steven Gentle during his final St Ives Town appearance in their play-off final success against AFC R

Steven Gentle during his final St Ives Town appearance in their play-off final success against AFC Rushden & Diamonds. Picture: DUNCAN LAMONT - Credit: Archant

One of St Ives Town’s promotion heroes has left the club only days after helping them to Southern League Division One (Central) play-off final glory.

Influential defender Steven Gentle has no plans to join Saints’ on their journey into Step 3 football for the first time.

He will resist the temptation to play at Southern League Premier Division level again and departs from ProEdge Westwood Road with glowing praise from Saints chief Ricky Marheineke ringing in his ears.

Marheineke said: “‘Gents’ has been an absolute rock all season. He came in and did exactly what we expected of him.

“He used his experience and ability to help us win games of football while also developing younger players around him.

“I don’t think we would have been promoted without his participation this season and he will be a very big loss.

“But we always knew that he wouldn’t consider playing in the Southern Premier again and we certainly respect his decision.

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“Replacing him is top of the priority list. We’ll do our best to try to find someone who can fill his boots, but it won’t be easy.”

Writing on his Twitter account, Gentle revealed he will leave Saints with a mixture of sadness and delight.

He admitted: “I came with the aim of promotion, but if I’m being totally honest, I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.

“Whilst I am over the moon to have been part of an amazing season, I am now equally sad that my St Ives Town journey is over.

“These long limbs of mine are retired from the Southern Premier and are more than happy play in Division One (Central).

“I would like to thank the chairman, committee and helpers who have made me feel so welcome, but most of all the supporters who came home and away all season and made Monday’s win that bit more special.”