The “heartbeat’’ of last season’s Eastbourne Borough squad will continue to be ever-present this year after Gary Hart signed an extension to his contract at Priory Lane.
The 36-year-old has agreed a deal to keep him at the club for another year after impressing in the later half of last season, when he played a pivotal role in the Sports’ rise to 12th place.
Ever since the final whistle blew on the previous campaign, Borough boss Tommy Widdrington has made no secret of his desire to keep the former Brighton man and is delighted the loose ends have finally been tied up.
“It’s taken a bit longer than I’d hoped because he’d been away and we’d just missed each other for a couple of weeks, but once we sat down, he was more than happy to sign and I’m really delighted.
“His attitude and application, both in training and on the field, is second to none and his winning mentality was a major factor at the end of the season.
“For about the last 15 games or so of the season, he was excellent. He had a really strong finish to the season - he was the heartbeat of the team.”
Hart, who scored one goal in 34 appearances for the club this season, taking his total tally since joining the Sports in 2011 to nine goals in 70 games, not only impresses on the field but behind the scenes too, where the younger members of the team reap the rewards from his years of experience.
In what is quite a youthful Eastbourne Borough squad, Widdrington believes that insight is essential.
“He’s one of them lads in the dressing room that, although he doesn’t say that much, when he does speak, people listen to him.
“He has the respect of everyone in there and the younger lads can learn a lot from him.
“It’s a bit like Darren Baker in that sense where, although neither of them are in their early 20s anymore, their fitness levels and application are fantastic. The way Gary looks after himself in between games is impressive and I’m really pleased he’ll be around for the upcoming season.”
Borough had to fight off some stiff competition in order to keep their star man, with Hart rebuffing a number of other clubs before committing his immediate future to the Sports.
Widdrington added, “There were a couple of clubs interested and they were throwing a bit of money around at him, but it’s not about the money for Gary.
“He’s at an age where he’s settled and enjoying the game at a club that’s local to him.”
Hart becomes the tenth player to sign up for the 2013/14 season alongside fellow attackers Darren Lok, Frankie Raymond and Chris Shephard, captain Ollie Rowe and new addition Ian Simpemba.
Players’ and manager’s player of the season Adam Watts will also pull on a Borough strip next season, as will Charlie Gorman, ‘keeper Danny Potter and Matt Aldred.