Hastings United Football Club manager Chris Agutter is viewing the remainder of this season as an audition for building what he hopes will be a title-winning side next term.
Agutter conceded Hastings’ slender Bostik League Division One South play-off hopes were over after last weekend’s 3-2 defeat at home to Hythe Town, but is determined to be successful in 2018/19.
He said: “I just said to the players in there, with the play-offs done, dead, I’m now looking towards next season. I’m looking at players which I think are going to be capable of being part of a title-winning side.
“I said that in my programme notes last week; I don’t want to get promoted next year, I want to win the league. I’m very ambitious. I’m not interested if I’m honest in going to Guernsey away on a Saturday, I want to be at a better level and Hastings United should be at a better level.
“As ruthless as it sounds, it’s now for me all about next season. I think it’s still mathematically possible, but people aren’t stupid, I’ve got to be realistic, we’re not going to get promoted this year.”
With 11 games to go, Hastings are ninth in the table and 12 points adrift of a Greenwich Borough side which occupies the final play-off spot of sixth.
“I think when I took over (in late September) we were 19th or 20th, something like that, so for us to even be at this point in the season where we can talk about it is credit to the players and shows we’ve moved in the right direction, but I’m not happy with that,” continued Agutter.
“I’m not interested in being in Bostik League South, I want to move the club forward and I need players that are capable of doing that.
“For me, with the existing players, it’s an audition for next season. We’ve already confirmed one or two new players, which obviously we can’t announce yet because they’re with current clubs, but that’s already done and one of them in particular is one hell of a signing.
“Rest assured the fans know that we’re working hard and looking to move things forward. With the two signings we’ve already made behind closed doors, we’re definitely in a stronger position.
“It’s just a case of the existing players, are they good enough to be part of a team which I think can win the league.”
Hastings will fly out to the Channel Islands today (Saturday) to take on a 20th-placed Guernsey side which they beat 3-1 in November’s reverse fixture.
“It will be an interesting one,” said Agutter. “It will be a long day I know that. I can’t believe it’s not an overnighter to be honest, but for whatever reason it’s not.
“We’ve had them watched, we’ll get a report back, have a look at what they can and can’t do, and look back at the previous game here when I think we were 2-0 up and should’ve been 6-0 at half time.
“We go there confident, but they’re a different team at home from what they are away so we know it will be a tough, tough game, factoring in all the travelling as well. We’ll go there prepared and looking to bounce back, definitely.”
The game will kick-off at 2pm and will be streamed live at the Hastings United Sports & Social Club.
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