MANAGER Jamie Howell has spoken of his delight at making quick progress with his Rocks rebuilding job.
The club have signed a top non-league goalkeeper and have lined up another five players set to join them for pre-season training with a view to joining the squad.
Keeper Chris Winterton – who has impressed in three years at Whitehawk – has signed a year’s contract. The 25-year-old has always impressed in games against the Rocks for the Hawks.
Winterton began his career at Eastbourne Borough before signing for Brighton. He moved to Finland to play for AC Kajaani for a year, then returned to England and played for a season at Lewes.
Meanwhile, striker/winger Darren Wheeler – who played for Godalming in the famous play-off semi-final at Nyewood Lane two years ago – and former Brighton midfielder Charlie Oatway junior are among players who have agreed to join in with the Rocks’ pre-season programme.
Young centre-half Joe Noakes, from AFC Portchester, is set to do the same – in addition to the duo mentioned in the Observer last week, defender Matt Whitehead and former Worthing and Hastings midfielder Jamie Crellin.
Howell said he was delighted with the progress of the recruitment drive – necessary after the departures of keeper Grant Smith, defender Stuart Axten, midfield pair Kane Wills and Scott Chamberlain and last season’s top scorer Terry Dodd.
Howell said he had been trailing keeper Winteron for morer than a year and believed he was the best keeper around at this level.
The Rocks swooped despite competition from a number of clubs, some at Conference level.
Howell said: “I thought Chris was the best goalie in the league. He won the Ryman premier division with Whitehawk so has the kind of experience we need.
“Darren Wheeler is another who we’re delighted to attract here. He can play anywhere in attack – left, right or centre – and he’s quick and score goals. I think the fans will like him.”
Wheeler started his career at Farnborough and has also played for Hartley Wintney, Eastleigh, Mangotsfield United, Weymouth, Fleet Town, Basingstoke and Slough.
Howell added: “Charlie is a player we’ve had here before. He’s also going to do a bit with Worthing in pre-season so it’s a case of seeing what works for him, and if he works for us.
“He was the best player on the pitch when Brighton beat us in the Sussex Senior Cup final last year – he was outstanding, in fact – and will be a big asset if he joins us.
“Joe Noakes is someone we’re keen to have a look at and give a chance to.”
Many existing squad members have committed to another year at Nyewood Lane and young midfielder Doug Tuck has signed a new contract.
The Rocks will report back for pre-season on Monday, June 30, and will train three times a week up to their first friendly, which is at home to a young Stoke City side on Tuesday July 15 (7.45pm).