Hastings United Football Club manager Chris Agutter has begun building what he hopes will be a title-winning side next season by retaining two existing players.
Attacking player Dayshonne Golding has signed a contract for the remainder of this season and the whole of next term, while goalkeeper Charlie Horlock has also committed for 2018/19.
Agutter said: “Two down, 16 to go - that’s the way I’m looking at it. It makes it a lot easier knowing that the players enjoy doing what we do; not one player wants to leave us.
“After the Hythe game (on February 17) Ollie Rowe said it’s the best footballing side he’s ever played in. Those sort of statements mean a lot.”
Agutter regards Golding as a player who offers ‘that maverick element’ and who is ‘doing the ugly things better than when he first came to the club’. He considers Horlock a National League South goalkeper who ‘takes things very seriously and does things properly’.
“They’re both ambitious,” continued Agutter. “They both want to get back into higher level football and hopefully they can do that with Hastings.”
More players are likely to commit over the coming weeks. Agutter expects to retain the majority of the existing squad - which sits ninth in Bostik League Division One South with 10 games to go - and fine-tune it with a few newcomers.
“We’re creating an awful lot of chances and if we had taken our chances we would be in the play-offs so we’re not far away,” he went on. “We just need to tweak it.
“We’re working at both ends. We’re not just looking at attacking players, we need to keep more clean sheets and one of my targets is a big, experienced centre-back.
“I’m really optimistic about everything and really pleased with what we’re doing. It’s a really happy ship, the team spirit’s brilliant.”
Assistant manager Steve Sallis has left the club, with Agutter saying ‘I need to make sure as much money is on the pitch as possible’.
“Steve Sallis was absolutely brilliant and it was a very difficult decision to make,” Agutter said. “He helped me from being an assistant manager to manager and reinforced my belief in terms of how I want the game to be played.
“I’ve got nothing but praise for him, but I’ve got a budget to work to and I need to make sure as much money is on the pitch as possible. I need as many people around it as full-time as possible and he couldn’t commit to more than one day a week, which wasn’t his fault.
“Circumstances really have meant that for the money, I needed someone there full-time. And if they weren’t going to be there full-time, that money could be better spent on keeping somebody like Sam Adams.
“I’m very conscientious in terms of the finances of the club. I want to run an efficient ship, I want it to be sustainable. I take great pride in looking at the budget sheet and seeing it in the black, and knowing I’m working within my means.”
Andrew Brown, who is part of the existing backroom team, will step up to the role of assistant for the time being at least.
“He’s an exceptional young coach, been with me for a number of years and I completely trust him,” said Agutter. “I’ve got very good staff at the club and I’m not going to be making any knee-jerk decisions at the moment.”
Weather permitting, Hastings will be back on home soil for the visit of South Park today (Saturday), kick-off 3pm. Calum Davies is touch and go with a painful throat infection, but the rest of the squad should be fit and available.
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