Hastings United Football Club has ‘exercised contract options’ to retain six key players for next season.
The players in question are defender Ollie Rowe, midfielders Matt Bodkin, Sam Cruttwell and Simon Johnson, and forwards Frannie Collin and Jack Harris.
It means they will be staying at The Pilot Field for the 2017/18 campaign unless for instance a club wishing to sign any of them can reach an agreement with United.
United director Dave Nessling, speaking on behalf of the club’s board, said: “All the stated players had a one-year option to their contracts (for a second year). This is a standard clause within a non-league contract.
“If they don’t wish to have an option when they sign the contract, they have to ask for it to be taken out. If a player asks for the option to be removed, it’s up to the club to decide if they wish to still complete on the contract if there is no option.”
All six players are proven performers at the level United play at and in some cases above - and would be highly likely to attract interest from other clubs if United did not have them under contract.
Asked if they are likely to stay at United, Nessling said: “We think a lot of them and we hope all wish to stay.
“As far as we’re concerned, they’re contracted to us and they would be expected to come in for pre-season. We’ve retained them because we wish them to stay, but if another club comes in (for any of the players), it’s up to that club to negotiate with us.”
Placing players on contract is a risk for clubs at United’s level because they can end up paying players sidelined by long-term injury - as United have with Harris and Sam Cole. But the flip side is that contracted players command a transfer fee from clubs wishing to sign them.
“It usually works in the club’s favour because if you get a good player that does well, you’ve signed him basically for two years because you’ve got an option,” added Nessling.
“The manager (Darren Hare, who is currently on holiday) was told by the board that if we were going to sign these players, we’ve got to have them on a year’s option.
The club says it is also in discussions with Cole, who is in rehabilitation after surgery on a serious knee injury, and hope to reach an agreement to retain him under contract once he is back to full fitness, which will be after the new season starts.
United say they are also in discussions with some of the non-contract players to hopefully retain their services for the new season.
United were beaten on penalties by Dorking Wanderers in the Ryman Football League Division One South play-off semi-finals after ending the regular season in fifth place.
“We did well to get to the play-offs in the end, but to be honest we were inconsistent,” Nessling said. “We scored lots of goals, but let in too many and you never quite knew what you were going to get from game to game.
“Having said that, once we got in the play-offs, I thought we were unlucky at Dorking. I thought we probably should’ve won that game. We had the chances, particularly in the second half of extra-time, but didn’t take them unfortunately.
“It would be really nice to have a season where we’re up there towards the top from the word go rather than coming from mid-table all season. I think it would assist the gates as well. Because we have little cup runs and trophy runs, which is good for the finances, we’re always playing catch-up.”
Nessling also had some words of praise for the club’s academy. United’s under-19 team finished runners-up in The National League U19 Alliance Division B after losing just one league game all season.
“We’re very, very pleased with the academy and the way it’s developing,” he said. “And we definitely want to start bringing some of those players through.”
Nessling also said that he anticipates the full planning application for the proposed Combe Valley Sports Village will go in during September.
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