Head coach Paul Hull to leave Bristol in the summer
Hull joined Bristol in 1987 and still holds the club record for appearances
Head coach Paul Hull will leave Bristol at the end of the season, with academy manager Liam Middleton taking over.
Hull, 42, took charge in February 2009 following the departure of Richard Hill but was unable to prevent them being relegated from the Premiership.
His side were on the verge of a return to the top flight last season but lost out to Exeter in the play-off final.
"The decision has been the most difficult in my career but I need a personal change," said Hull.
Asked whether Bristol were now unable to match his ambitions Hull told BBC Radio Bristol: "You can read a lot of different things (into my decision to leave).
"I am an ambitious coach but I do honestly think I need a fresh challenge.
"I've been in talks with the board since Christmas but I didn't pay too much attention to those talks as I was focussed on getting into the promotion play-offs.
"It was after the Plymouth game [which saw them qualify fo the play-offs] when I sat down with my family and decided I needed a new challenge so I came to the difficult decision and told Chris Booy on Monday.
"I think it's the perfect time as all the players and staff are out of contract so they needed to plan for the future."
My focus is 100% on a strong finish to the season and I personally feel we are in a great position for a possible surprise.
The former England full-back has been at Bristol as a player and coach for 22 years.
He made his debut for Bristol in 1987 and his playing career came to a premature end in 1999 after suffering an Achilles injury.
He then took on a coaching role with the academy before leaving the club for a short spell as assistant coach at London Irish.
Hull returned to the club in 2005 after they gained promotion to the Premiership and worked under head coach Hill.
Last season Bristol were firm favourites to win the Championship play-off final and bounce straight back to the top flight.
However, they were comprehensively beaten by Exeter in the second leg at the Memorial Stadium and the club then went into freefall.
Middleton is currently academy boss and first team defence coach
Eight first team players departed with the club then having to re-negotiate contracts with many of the remaining squad due to a lack of finances.
"It's been a tough nine months as my daughter was born just two days before we lost the final and all the fall out from that," said Hull.
"The club were extremely business like in turning it around in the space of a couple of weeks afterwards as at one stage we could have been bust.
This season it looked like Bristol might miss out on the promotion play-offs altogether but a recent upturn in form has seen them viewed as the dark horse for the end of season run-in.
"My focus is 100% on a strong finish to the season and I personally feel we are in a great position for a possible surprise," added Hull.
"That starts with our home British & Irish Cup quarter final match, against Ayr this coming Sunday."
Hull's replacement is current academy manager and first team defensive coach Middleton.
We have been very impressed with the work he has done with our academy over the past two years and believe that he is absolutely the right coach to take the club forward
Chris Booy on Liam Middleton
The Zimbabwean joined Bristol in the summer of 2009 having coached his national sevens side in various international tournaments.
He has been credited with bringing through some very promising young talent into the first team squad.
"We are delighted to have appointed Liam as our head coach for next season," said chairman Chris Booy.
"We have been very impressed with the work he has done with our academy over the past two years and believe that he is absolutely the right coach to take the club forward."
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