The promise of applying for promotion next season has seen Hadleigh United boosted by a raft of their title-winning squad signing new deals.
Players have been told the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division champions will apply to go up to the Ryman League if they are in a strong position at Christmas, having declined the opportunity on financial grounds when well clear at the top at the same stage last year.
Twelve players, including midfielder Duane Wright — the man who scored the dramatic late goal to win the league — former Southend United striker Tesfaye Bramble, captain Paul Donnelly and young goalkeeper Fred Howe have committed themselves to defending their title.
But top scorer Josh Mayhew (23 league goals) is holding out to play at a higher level, while Ollie Canfer (15 goals) is moving to Canterbury.
Veteran defender Shane Wardley is leaving as he wishes to play closer to home and winger Matt Downing was already set to depart after being posted down south with the army.
Assistant manager Alan Dilloway said: “We have 12 players who have already agreed deals with Mark Maher and Neil Calver the only ones we are waiting to hear back on.
“The club have made a commitment by saying if we are in a position at Christmas this year like we were last year they plan to apply for promotion.”
Teenage reserve players Max Planck, Damon Artiss, Toby Rose, Brett Crisp, Harry Evans and Sam Sharp have all been promoted to the first-team squad.
Other first-team players who have committed to new season are Mark Goldfinch, Kris Rose, Kelsey Trotter, Ryan Stafford, Liam Jennings, Mike Barwick, Scott Chaplin and James Blades.
Pre-season is due to begin on July 1, and confirmed friendlies include Colchester United and Leyton Orient sending under-21 sides to the Millfield on July 12 (3pm) and July 26 (1pm) respectively.
In between those dates, Crawford’s side will travel to AFC Sudbury on July 15 (7.45pm) and Suffolk and Ipswich League side Grundisburgh on July 19 (2.30pm).
An away game on July 29 is yet to be arranged, while Needham Market will visit on August 2 for the annual Hadleigh Charity Cup (3pm) and the Brettsiders’ build-up to the season opener on August 9 will conclude with a visit to Stowmarket Town on August 5 (7.45pm).