New Hastings United signing ‘exactly the player we need’

Gary Elphick during his time as Worthing manager. Picture courtesy Stephen Goodger
Gary Elphick during his time as Worthing manager. Picture courtesy Stephen Goodger

Hastings United Football Club manager Chris Agutter described new signing Gary Elphick as ‘exactly the type of player we need’.

The experienced one-time Brighton & Hove Albion defender has joined Bostik League South East Division play-off hopefuls Hastings with eight games of the season remaining.

Agutter said: “It’s exactly the right type of player that we need. We’ve young, we’re inexperienced and Gary’s addition will be huge for us.

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“We have so much of the ball, we’re so dominant - there’s never really a game where we’re not the dominant side - and he’s an organiser who will keep people switched on while we’ve got possession of the ball.

“I’ve been after this type of player for a long time. It has to be the right type of player. They’re a dying breed, Gary’s type. He’s a leader of men, he’ll get hold of people and organise on the pitch.

“We’ve needed this type of player from my first day as manager. I genuinely think if we had Gary at the start of the season, or the same type of player - a leader, an experienced centre-back - we would be very close to (league leaders) Cray. It’s no secret that the reason we’re not close to Cray is not because of the number of goals we’ve scored, it’s the goals we concede.”

Elphick made two appearances for Brighton from 2004-06 before moving into the non-league game with the likes of St Albans City, Havant & Waterlooville, Eastbourne Borough, Eastleigh, Tonbridge Angels and Worthing.

The 33-year-old, whose younger brother Tommy plays for Sky Bet Championship club Aston Villa, also managed Worthing from 2015-17, the majority of that time on a joint basis with Jon Meeney.

He subsequently joined Burgess Hill Town as a player in September 2017 and made 26 appearances for the Hillians this season, the last of them in late January.

Elphick left Burgess Hill in early February, with manager Simon Wormull saying he required ‘some time away from the game’.

“I know Gary relatively well and I tried to sign him a couple of times,” continued Agutter. “Having tried all the different solutions within our existing back line, all of whom are young and inexperienced, I revisited it with Gary.

“I filled him in on what we’re doing - it’s very similar to when he was at Worthing with a young side - he likes the project and he was keen to work with me.”

Bostik League South East Division top half (played-points): 1 Cray Wanderers 27-68 (+39 goal difference), 2 Horsham 28-55 (+22), 3 Haywards Heath Town 28-52 (+17), 4 Ashford United 27-51 (+28), 5 HASTINGS UNITED 28-50 (+20), 6 Whyteleafe 27-41 (+11), 7 VCD Athletic 26-41 (+3), 8 Hythe Town 28-40 (+6), 9 Ramsgate 28-36 (+5), 10 Phoenix Sports 27-35 (-4).