Hastings United have announced a full overhaul of their playing squad for the 2019/20 season. Ten of last year’s troops have departed, including many who arrived during manager Chris Agutter’s ongoing 20-month reign with fanfares of greeting but, for one reason or another, haven’t retained favour. Thirteen have re-signed, while there are a couple of new faces and a promotion from the academy.

Sam Adams (in white)
PICTURE: Scott White

Most supporters will be saddened by the news that Sam Cruttwell will no longer be strutting his stuff in a Hastings shirt. Whether positioned as midfielder, left back or centre-back Cruttwell was the class performer of the team – strong in the air, able to drift past opponents with the ball at his feet, play the precise killer pass or on occasion burst the back of the net. His 30-yard cracker against Cray Wanderers at Pilot Field in March, described by Agutter as “the best goal I’ve seen in three or four years”, was no fluke. 

But clearly there have been issues. Agutter had made remarks during the season referring to problems in training. It also seems that Cruttwell wanted to have greater involvement in the sport of futsal (indoor football), in which local club Sussex Futsal compete in the National Super League. Nevertheless Agutter says on the United website that he was offered a new contract.  “I can advise that Sam Cruttwell was offered a new deal at the Club which would also of allowed him to officially pursue his Futsal interest but he chose not to take up the Club’s offer.”

Others departed include former first choice goalkeeper Charlie Horlock, defenders Jahmal Howlett-Mundle and Sinn’Kaye Christie, and forwards Hassan Ibrahiym and Jordy Mongoy, all of whom have found, or can expect to find, welcomes at a similar level elsewhere.  However, former academy players Tom Climpson and Jamie Fielding have negotiated upward career moves. Climpson will be heading for the USA on a college scholarship. Fielding, who was a fledgling in the pecking order only 12 months ago but enjoyed a storming second half of the season at right back, has been signed up by League Division Two side Stevenage Town. He was not under contract with United, so the Hastings club will not apparently receive any transfer payment, and must make do with the boost which the deal should give to the reputation of the academy.

Of those players reported as staying, there remains speculation that, for some, this status may not last until August when the new season starts. Midfielder Adam Lovatt had trials with several league clubs last year without attracting a firm bid, but will surely remain in the shop window. Strikers Daniel Ajakaiye (34 goals last season) and Davide Rodari (sidelined with a cruciate injury until the last few games, but back in apparent full health now) are others with good prospects of upward mobility. The club will not stand in their way, and would in each case receive a fee for contract release.

Among players coming in are Jake Elliott, a tall right-back recruited from Peacehaven & Telscombe, and Dan Hull, a 6 foot 4 inch centre-back promoted from the academy. With Gary Elphick also re-signing, there shouldn’t be many days on which United defenders will find themselves at height inferiority to their opponents.

Two other players who have re-signed with the ‘U’s, and around whom the team will surely continue to revolve, are midfielders Sam Adams and Jack Dixon. Adams will again be captain, at age 33; Dixon, 28, who swept the board in “player of the season” honours last month, seems equally committed to the cause. “At this stage of my career it was an easy decision for me to make”, the club website quotes him as saying. “I’m a local lad and I very much feel a big part of the project here, the club is definitely moving forward. I think that I have more to give on and off the pitch to help the young talented group of players that we have.”

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