Hadleigh boss pleased to retain youngsters amidst interest from other clubs

Hadleigh's Ben Elliott is held in high regard by the Brettsiders.

Hadleigh's Ben Elliott is held in high regard by the Brettsiders. - Credit: Archant

New faces are on their way at Hadleigh United, but boss Stuart Alston has already conducted some key business – keeping his young squad together.

Ryman Premier duo Leiston and Needham Market, plus Thurlow Nunn Premier League side Stanway Rovers, were all keen to sign 18-year-old full-back James Gaffer, while youngster, Ben Elliott, who swept the board at the club’s end-of-season awards, has also attracted interest. Both are likely to stay put.

Alston, who will be starting his second season in charge of the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division outfit, having watched his young team narrowly avoid relegation last season, said: “The key was to get the lads playing at that level and what we have found is clubs are now trying to take them.

“Needham, Leiston and Stanway all wanted James Gaffer and although we can’t compete with the big non-league sides, and there are other clubs in our league with bigger budgets, what we do have at the club is 25 best mates.

“I can’t fault their attitude to the club and each other and I don’t have a worry about having a big fish in a small pond here – the team spirit is first-class.

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“We have also managed to keep hold of Ben Elliott, who cleaned up at the end-of-season awards and to keep what we had was key.”

Pre-season started on Tuesday night for the Hadleigh squad with Alston keen to strengthen his side with four or five new additions.

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“The (Hadleigh) budget’s gone up a bit this year but it’s difficult to get anyone in because players are asking for ridiculous money and pitching one team against the other,” Alston added.

“I am looking to bring in four or five additions to the squad and three of my major targets have all said they are going to sign for the club.

“I am in the market for a left-back and a six-foot centre-forward but it will be tough with other sides splashing lots of money.”

On other clubs spending big in the division, Alston added: “I don’t think it’s sustainable throughout the whole season. The one thing I want to do is to put the foundations in place and commit to a long-term project.

“We will probably be one of the five or six clubs predicted to struggle and we have to get the best out of what we have and make sure we’re not in a relegation scrap again.”

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