Bigger, better and fitter - that's what Hastings United want to be this season

Being bigger and better is the aim of the game for Hastings United this season as they look to bounce back from 2019-20’s cruel ending.

Friday, 7th August 2020, 7:30 am
Sam Adams battles away for Hastings against Eastbourne Utd in midweek / Picture: Scott White

The Us sat proudly atop the Isthmian League south east division and on course, if they matched results from earlier in the season, for a record-breaking points total.

But coronavirus laid waste to the football season as it did to so much of our everyday life, leaving manager Chris Agutter with the job of remotivating his players in time for the new campaign.

“We’ve got over the original disappointment of it being null and voided,” said Agutter. “It was a massive disappointment but we need to use it as an opportunity to get bigger and better.

“I think we got over it relatively quickly and rather than sit on our hands and think ‘what if’, we are seeing it as an opportunity to get better.”

Preparations for this season got off to a spectacular start with an 8-0 demolition away at Westfield FC last weekend. Agutter saw his side charge into a 6-0 half-time lead, with Daniel Ajakaiye completing his hat-trick shortly after the restart with the seventh.

“After five months out we didn’t know what to expect, but they have kept themselves in good shape,” he said. “It was a really positive, enthusiastic performance.”

Tuesday evening brought another victory, 2-1 over local rivals Eastbourne United as the players looked to dust off any cobwebs from lockdown. Agutter said he never had any worries about his players’ fitness, crediting the club’s recruitment policy of focusing on the person as well as the footballing ability.

In a message that could worry their rivals, he said his players had come back ‘arguably fitter than they were when they left’. It is a mark of the team’s progress under Agutter that some of the squad have been picked up by clubs in higher leagues, leaving the task of finding replacements.

As well as bringing in new faces, he said it was up to him and all of his backroomstaff to ‘upskill’ across the club, improving individual players as well as their own coaching methods.

With last season’s dominance comes a renewed sense of expectation. “We are a big target for everyone – we’re a massive club,” he said. “But we’re always looking to challenge ourselves and it’s a case of embracing the pressure. We always say that pressure is a privilege, it’s something we’re used to and enjoy and relish.”

Hastings’ next fixture sees them at Grays Athletic on Saturday, with a packed schedule of two matches a week, around multiple training sessions, up until the season kicks off in the second week of September.

Get the latest from the Pilot Field: hastingsobserver.co.uk