Hastings United boss: A lot of players keen to join club

Adam Lovatt goes up for a header during Hastings United's play-off semi-final defeat by Ashford United. Picture courtesy Scott White
Adam Lovatt goes up for a header during Hastings United's play-off semi-final defeat by Ashford United. Picture courtesy Scott White

Hastings United manager Chris Agutter says there’s a lot of interest from players elsewhere in joining the football club.

Hastings will again line up in the Bostik League South East Division next season having finished third and narrowly lost out in the play-off semi-finals last month.

Agutter said: “There’s a lot of interest. Players want to come and play for the club because the set-up and infrastructure is a lot healthier than it was when I first took over.

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“Hastings is a very big club, and I think there’s a general feeling the club’s very much on an upward curve and exciting things are happening both on and off the pitch.

“One of the biggest things is people want to play good football. If you were a neutral and wanted to watch a team play, it would’ve always been us or Cray (league champions Cray Wanderers). It’s very positive and puts us in a good position.

“We’ll obviously always look to improve. When you’ve got a very good academy and seen how well homegrown players have done this year and become mainstays in a team which has challenged for promotion, what you don’t want to do is look too far outside the building unnecessarily.

“We’ve got a lot of good young players produced in the club’s academy, and having seen the likes of Adam (Lovatt) and Jamie (Fielding) breaking through, it gives us a good reference point for the next group of players.”

As well as bringing in new players, Hastings will be aiming to keep hold of the bulk of the squad which was top of the form table for the final eight games of the 2018/19 regular season.

Fielding and Lovatt trained with Premier League giants Leicester City last month, and Lovatt almost joined League One club AFC Sunderland at the end of January.

“When people have good seasons and are very successful, there’s always interest from higher up, in particular for established players,” continued Agutter. “You become a victim of your own success really.

“There’s lots of interest. It’s a real compliment the amount of clubs interested in our players and the amount of agents that are trying to acquire the services of our players.

“We’re working hard trying to keep players and keep the core of the squad together. One of the biggest things is we have to build on last season. We can’t rip up all the positives and all the good we’ve done.

“The lads that have been at the club a while have all pretty much unanimously said it’s the best they’ve ever known it at the club.

“We had a very positive season last season. It’s a good environment and players know they’re improving. As much as other clubs I dare say will be flashing cash around, players at Hastings United know they’re going to improve and develop, and they buy in to that.

“Players want to improve. Jack Dixon had an incredible season. Over the 18 months since I’ve been manager he’s significantly improved - and that’s down to him, not me.”

In contrast to this time last year, Hastings have not yet confirmed any players who will be staying with or joining the club for next term.

“We’re going through the process of making decisions,” added Agutter. “We will be making the right decisions and will be measured in what we’re doing.

“We got a lot of business done early last year, but good things come to those who wait and we’re not going to be too rushed. We’re not making any knee-jerk reactions.”

With the dust having now settled following the heartbreaking play-off defeat by Ashford United, Agutter has had a fortnight or so to reflect on his first full season at the helm.

“We’ve been trying to understand why we’ve not been promoted this year, and what needs to be looked at and improved to mount a title challenge next year,” he said.

“I think ultimately a lack of experience in key areas has maybe meant we’ve dropped important points at key moments in the season.

“From a staff point of view we can look at games where we’ve perhaps not set up in the right way. Also I’m appreciating we’re not far away by any stretch.”