“It’s about the team”

Manager Gary Elphick, assistant Jon Meeney and team captain Jack Dixon gave an impressively open and committed presentation as a three-man panel responding to questions raised at a Hastings United Independent Supporters Club ‘Fan Forum’ meeting last Wednesday at the Sports & Social Club off Elphinstone Road.

Elphick was able to confirm that the nucleus of the United team which won the South-East Division of the Isthmian League last season has been kept together and is now back in training for the start of their Premier campaign next month, supplemented by the arrival of two new recruits, Gil Carvalho and Kai Brown. 

April 2022: Hastings celebrate league title win at Faversham
CREDIT: Scott White

“I felt we won the league last year without having pace in attack,” Elphick told the meeting. “Now we have it in abundance.” Tom Chalmers and Knory Scott are quick, but aren’t natural forwards; Carvalho and Brown have been brought in to perform this role. But Elphick emphasised that the principal element he had looked for in selecting new members of the squad was their desire to become part of the team. “The core group we’ve got now is massive,” he said. Local players, such as Dixon and Sam Adams, would always “play for the badge”. Prospective incomers were judged first on their “character”.

“Our budget for players is a good one, but it’s a sensible one too,” Elphick said. He was only interested in pursuing negotiations with those for whom money was secondary to their desire to be part of the collective set-up. “It’s all about the team.”

“A lot of togetherness”

Both Meeney and Dixon endorsed this ethic. “You may have all the ability in the world,” said Meeney, “but you’ve got
to fit into the way the team plays.”  “We’ve got a lot of togetherness in the dressing room,” added Dixon. They
had been “in a bad place” when previous manager Chris Agutter resigned suddenly last October despite a long run of successes over the previous two years, but had been held together under Elphick’s management, and swiftly come good again. “It’s definitely the best time I’ve had in football”, Dixon declared.

All three panellists were clearly approaching the new season with optimism. Elphick and Meeney confirmed that players had returned from their off-season break in good physical condition, although they were only two sessions into training. The number of pre-season friendlies would be reduced compared to recent years and not started “too early”. Elphick said that he wanted to “keep the team fresh…not bored before the season starts”. First outing will be at East Grinstead tomorrow (16 July). 

Elphick hinted at the meeting that he hoped to make a couple of further signings to complete his squad. One was announced last Friday as Alex Brefo, who impressed as an opponent playing against the ‘U’s for Cray Valley PM last season. Elphick describes him on the United club website as able to play centrally defensively or in midfield. He is only 20 years old and is a powerful athlete, I’m looking forward to working with him to fulfil his potential. Alex gives us flexibility with formations as well, which could be key as the season progresses.” A loanee from a Football League club is also said to be in the offing.

The Isthmian Premier league season is due to kick off on Saturday 13 August. Full fixtures were due to be released during the course of this week. Details of the Independent Supporters Club can be found on their website www.husupporters.club. The season’s membership costs just £15 and offers various discounts and other benefits.

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