Eastbourne Borough boss Tommy Widdrington has admitted hopes of re-signing last season’s top-scorer Elliott Charles are fading fast as the new season inches closer.
The club expressed an interest to keep the 23-year-old at the end of the 2012/13 season and, although an offer was made, no deal has yet been agreed.
Charles, who netted 14 goals in 26 appearances for the Sports, featured in a handful of pre-season games for Dover but, even then, a return to Priory Lane was not ruled out.
However, speaking at Borough’s Open Day on Saturday, boss Widdrington confessed he was growing weary of the to and fro negotiations and, with a need to move on and get ready for the new season, he was almost about to call time on the Elliott Charles saga.
He said, “The door is closing on Elliott. I doubt at this point that he will be back.
“I don’t want anybody here who doesn’t want to play for this football club.
“There are only three players who do not live within 15 minutes of the club and even those three are fully committed to what we are building here.”
As Charles is under 24 and with Borough still holding his registration, any other club who wish to sign him would be liable to a fee - money that would come in handy in finding a replacement to fill the striker’s boots.
However, despite having a respectable budget, this is a job Widdrington believes is more challenging than it seems, declaring, “Finding 25-goal strikers is like looking for rocking-horse dung, so they always demand a high price.”
The Borough boss will hope to partially fill the void left by Charles with trialist striker Tony Garrod, who this weekend agreed a deal with the club after impressing in a series of pre-season matches, including netting a goal in the 3-1 victory over Worthingin July.
Also signing on the dotted line was Lewis Tallack, a centre-back/midfield player who has also featured in a number of friendlies over the past couple of weeks.
With one more professional contract likely to be added, Widdrington can boast a core first team squad of 14 players, as well as a wealth of academy players at his fingertips, all of whom are able to sign Conference forms.
With the new season just a fortnight away, Widdrington is confident that his squad will do the job and issued a clear statement of intent.
He said, “This is my team now. I’ll be judged on them. We don’t get up in the morning to come second.
“The Ebbsfleets, the Chelmsfords and the Dovers will undoubtedly have bigger budgets than us, but that’s a double-edged sword.
“You can give a man a fortune and he may choose to spend it in the charity shop or in Harrods. There are there to be shot at.
“This team is bigger, younger, fitter and more motivated than last season or the season before. They have gelled as a team and they know their roles and know their mates’ roles.
“I have consciously signed players who are winners. If they score a goal, the team scores it. If they win, they win together. It’s a mentality that now runs through out dressing room, which might not always have been the case in the past.”
Another loose end to be tied up at the Open Day was that of the captaincy. With Ollie Rowe suspended for the first three games of the campaign following his red card on the final day of last season, it was inevitable that someone else would don the armband, at least for the start of the campaign.
On Saturday, Widdrington confirmed that, while Rowe will remain as club captain, summer signing Ian Simpemba will wear the armband on the field as team captain, although the boss was quick to stress the value of both men to the club and to himself.
The Sports face their last scheduled pre-season friendly against Margate tonight (Tuesday) but Widdrington has not ruled out the possibility of another match, potentially at home, before the season begins.
Off the field, Winning Look have become the new kit sponsors, while Domsalla and Best Demolition will remain with the club as major sponsors.