Ex-professional Richard Rose says he has fulfilled a long-held desire by joining Hastings United Football Club.
The former Gillingham and Hereford United player has agreed terms to play for his local club next season, and is a real marquee signing for the U’s.
He said: “I’ve always seen Hastings as where I’m from and my home. I’ve always said to friends I’d like to come back and have a couple of seasons there. It’s a good life choice for me now.”
Having grown up in Three Oaks and attended secondary school in Rye, Rose began his career with Gillingham, where he came through the youth ranks into the first team.
The 31-year-old made 58 appearances for the Gills before moving to Hereford in 2006. He played 194 times for the Bulls’ first team over the subsequent five years.
With his girlfriend pregnant with their first child, Rose returned to the south east and signed for Dagenham & Redbridge ahead of the 2011/12 campaign.
He moved to Dartford a year later and spent last season playing for Whitehawk in Conference South, during which time he turned out against the U’s in the Ryman League Cup while on loan at Maidstone United.
Now a father of two young girls, Rose lives in Bexhill, and remains involved in the game on a day-to-day basis with the coaching and scouting work he does.
Rose is looking forward to linking up with a strong-looking United squad which has its sights firmly set on promotion from Ryman Football League Division One South.
“I’m excited about it,” he continued. “It’s going to be a good challenge. As soon as I spoke to Dave (Walters, United’s chairman) and Terry (White, United’s manager), I thought ‘I’d love to come down here and make it happen’.
“The ambition there was absolutely fantastic. They were talking about Conference South, and if you look at the facilities and condition of the pitch, it’s good. When I was in Conference South, I played at places which weren’t as good as it is down there, and it’s a decent squad.”
Rose singled out making his debut for Gillingham at Crewe a couple of weeks after his 17th birthday and winning an FA Cup replay with Hereford away to Leeds United as special moments in his career.
“Sometimes when I think about some of the grounds I’ve played at and players I’ve played against I have to pinch myself really,” he added. “I’ve had a very good career and it’s nice to look back now with the old shirts.”
A versatile player who can perform in central midfield and central defence, Rose has spent much of his career at full-back but is happy to play wherever required.
United manager White said: “I’m delighted obviously. To get a player of his experience and what he’s done in the game is a massive coup for the club and for me as manager.
“I feel all the signings I’ve made have been big, but with his previous league experience I suppose you could say he’s a marquee signing.
“There’s been a lot of time invested and the chairman’s worked as hard as anybody; he’s looked at every avenue to help get the deal done.”
White, who has also brought the likes of Ade Olorunda, Sean Ray, Dave Cook and Jahmahl King to The Pilot Field over the summer, says that Rose will probably play at full-back if everybody is available.
“I spoke to him at length about this,” continued White. “He’s very versatile and he said it’s worked against him at previous clubs, but I don’t think that’s going to be a problem for us. His versatility is going to be really handy.
“If everybody was fit and I had the squad I wanted, I would imagine he will start the season as one of my full-backs. But if two really good full-backs become available or I get an injury somewhere, I could shift him to centre-half and holding midfield.”
Rose and his new United team-mates will begin pre-season training at ARK William Parker Academy tomorrow (Saturday), and White is looking forward to working with his new recruits.
“All summer I’ve been working on getting these players in, now it’s can I structure them around a team which hopefully I will. I’m looking forward to it.
“The group of players has got a bit of everything about it. It looks quite good, quite enterprising and hopefully it will all fall into place.
“I only need to really look for one full-back now. I’m not going to actively identify anybody unless I hear of somebody becoming available.”
Ronnie Dolan, who had a relatively brief spell in the United midfield last season, has been in contact with White and asked to attend training. “He feels he’s a better player than he showed last season,” said White.
On the subject of training, White added: “The training is going to be hard, very hard so my message to the players is don’t turn up and try to get fit, turn up fit and get fitter!”