AFTER more than 34 years in charge, Kulwinder Sandhu has stepped down as Albion Sports manager.

For three and a half decades Sandhu was 'Mr Albion' as he battled against the odds to lift the Bradford club from Sunday League level to Step Five on the non-league football pyramid.

Former Burnley and Sheffield United striker John Francis has taken over as boss at the Northern Counties East League Premier Division outfit.

Sandhu said: “I think it’s time for a change – after over 34 years I must have been the longest serving manager in the world!

“A couple of weeks after the last season finished I told the chairman Jaj (Singh) that I wouldn’t be managing the team for new season.

"I had become frustrated as every time I get a good player or bring one through from the junior sides and improve them, other clubs just come in and snap them up and then I’m building another team, yet again.

“I’ve got no problem with players progressing and moving on to bigger clubs in higher leagues, but when people move to clubs in your division for a few quid it deflates you a bit.”

Chairman Singh paid tribute to the Albion stalwart, who he hopes will continue to work behind the scenes at the club.

Singh said: "It's just fantastic from Kully what he has done in his time as the manager. He is Albion through and through."

The Lions struggled for most of last season after four of their big players departed last summer. Sandhu had to revert to playing a lot of younger players and the results suffered as the consistency wasn’t there due to the inexperience.

Improving those players throughout the campaign, and adding one or two older heads when they became available, led to Albion ending the season with some excellent results over the final six weeks.

The Lions were looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone prior to that strong finish but 12 victories over the season saw them through to the magical 40 points as they stayed up in fourth from bottom.

Sandhu said: “I have left the club in a good position and a lot higher up the non-league ladder than it was when we started out.

“It’s been a long time and some of it has been tough but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and Albion will always be a part of me. The committee have asked me to stay involved and I told them I’d help out when I could but I think I need a little bit of a break.”

Sandhu is planning to spend some quality time with his family over the close season but is not ruling out a return to the game he lives and breathes in the not too distant future.

He added: “I’ve had offers but I’m just having a little break. If the right offer comes along then who knows? I do have the experience and I know that I’ll miss the day to day involvement.

“Football is a big part of my life and I have a lot to offer so I would definitely consider returning to management.”

New boss Francis, aged 55, played over 175 games in two spells for Burnley during the 1990s and also played for Cambridge, Halifax and Scunthorpe among others.

He spent several years working for the Clarets youth development set-up and has experience with student coaching programme RIASA.

Singh said: "John is a well-known coach within the circuit. He will get all the backing of everyone involved in Albion Sports

"I’m sure he’ll enjoy his time with us. John’s a quality coach and we are hoping he is going to bring a lot of the younger players through."

Sports take on Farsley Celtic - another of Francis' former clubs - in a friendly at the Celts' newly-named Citadel ground on Friday (7.45pm).