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Maidstone United manager Hakan Hayrettin says National League survival would be like winning the league in their first season back up

Maidstone boss Hakan Hayrettin says staying in the National League next season would be like winning the title.

United are gearing up for their return to non-league’s top flight after a three-year absence.

Maidstone United manager Hakan Hayrettin Picture: Steve Terrell
Maidstone United manager Hakan Hayrettin Picture: Steve Terrell

Hayrettin is closing in on his first two summer signings and remains in talks with the majority of his National South title-winning squad over new deals.

The manager is desperate to be competitive but, with the division looking tougher than ever, he has to be realistic in Maidstone’s first season back at that level.

It’s packed with big ex-Football League clubs, the likes of Notts County, Wrexham, Chesterfield, Yeovil and Southend, and they will be joined by Scunthorpe and former Premier League outfit Oldham, following their relegation.

The list goes on and could include Grimsby, should they lose this weekend’s play-off final against big-spending Solihull.

“If we stay in the league, it’s like winning the league,” said Hayrettin.

“As a manager, I want to push as much as I can and I have a vision in my mind of where we could be.

“But it’s a new league, a strong league and when you look at all the teams and the finances at their disposal, that’s why I say it would feel like winning the league if we stay up.

“The club’s self-sufficient, we’re not going to throw money at it, which is an indication that it’s going to be a challenging season.

“I’ve got no doubt in the ability of our players or what we’re going to do but when you look at the money these big clubs have at their disposal, that’s the difference.

“Everyone’s success is measured in different ways.

“Success for Wrexham is to win the league, success for Grimsby is to win the league, success for Solihull is to win the league because they have big financial backing, success for Notts County is to win the league, Southend have 6,000-plus crowds.

Captain Gavin Hoyte has signed a new deal Picture: Steve Terrell
Captain Gavin Hoyte has signed a new deal Picture: Steve Terrell

“A lot of clubs will be paying big, big money but we’re going to do our best.

“Please don’t think I’m being negative.

“As a manager, I’m passionate, I want to win every game and I’ll be trying to win every game - that’s the aim.

“I’d urge the supporters, who have been unbelievable, that, whatever happens, stick by us.

“We may lose a couple of games and we need them behind us because as time goes by, we’ll only get better.

“One thing the supporters know is that whoever plays for me has to work hard. There’s no getting away from that.”

Captain Gavin Hoyte has joined Joan Luque, George Fowler, Regan Booty, Sam Corne and Joe Ellul on the list of contracted players for next year, while youngsters Bivesh Gurung and Harley Earle also have deals.

George Elokobi, who’s retired, and Alfie Pavey, who announced his exit last week, head a list of five player departures, which is completed by keeper Billy Johnson and defenders Taylor Curran and Max Sutton. Curran has already joined National South Welling.

Hayrettin is speaking to the remaining 12 players, including 18-goal striker Jack Barham and players’ player-of-the-year Jerome Binnom-Williams, about new deals.

“Everybody now, and even before, is saying we’ll need this or we’ll need that,” said Hayrettin.

Taylor Curran has joined Welling following his release Picture: Steve Terrell
Taylor Curran has joined Welling following his release Picture: Steve Terrell

“But, as a manager, I’ve decided I want to have that core group that got us promoted.

“If you got rid of everyone and started again it would cost the club way too much money and we’d lose that special bond we created last season.

“That’s something I’m big on, wherever I’ve been, and it’s important you have that connection between the manager and the players, and the players and the supporters.

“I’m quite cautious, I don’t panic, I bide my time and try and get the best players for the club in terms of character and personality and finance, and ability as well, of course. That’s the way I work.

“I wouldn’t be re-engaging most of the players if I didn’t think they were good enough.

“You look at people like Jerome Binnom-Williams, Gavin Hoyte, Joe Ellul, George Fowler, Regan Booty, Sam Corne, Michael Phillips, Jack Barham, Roarie Deacon, they’ve all played National League level or, in some cases, higher.

“They know the level, it won’t come as a surprise to them.

“We were worthy champions in the South and I feel that core will do well again.”

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