Woking manager Garry Hill began his preparations for the 2013-14 Blue Square Premier season as he tied down four key players to new contracts.
The Cards Trust Player of the Season, Players' Player of the Season, and the Woking Football Club Player of the Season Kevin Betsy has signed a one year contract extension, while goalkeeper Aaron Howe, defender Joe McNerney and midfield maestro Lee Sawyer have all penned new deals.
Well-travelled wide man Betsy, 35, was an ever present in Hill's starting 11 last season, chipping in with a creditable 14 league goals. A key member of the Blue Square South promotion winning side of 2011-12, Betsy found a new lease of life this year as his interplay with fellow midfielders Sawyer, Mark Ricketts and Sunderland loanee Billy Knott drew high praise from both supporters and the local media.
Managers Player of the Season McNerney, 23, clearly enjoyed his first year as a regular Woking starter, turning in numerous fine performances and maturing steadily as the season wore on. Speaking about his defender's efforts this year, Hill commented: "He's got a great career going forward in the game, and is a very honest player who never lets us down".
Howe, 25, endured a difficult season - as a wrist injury saw him out of action for over two months and on loan AFC Wimbledon stopper Seb Brown take up the mantle of the club's number one. But the former Havant & Waterlooville keeper returned for the final two games of the season and is still regarded by Hill as: "one of the best goalkeeper's outside the football league."
Controversial playmaker Sawyer has also faced mixed fortunes over the last year - his poor disciplinary record comprising 13 yellow and two red cards in 34 league appearances led to him being placed on the transfer list in February, but his improved performances and attitude in the final weeks of the season have earned the combative, robust and yet talented ex-Chelsea player a second chance.
Not all of Hill's stars have been quite so fortunate, with Gavin McCallum arguably the biggest name amongst six already released by the club this summer.
Winger McCallum, who made 48 appearances for the Cards in all competitions last season (including 27 starts), netted nine times, with his high work-rate and dribbling ability often offering his team a useful outlet on either flank.
Other names not to make the grade included Latvian goalkeeper Elvijs Putnins, whose indifferent performances during Howe's spell on the sidelines clearly failed to impress, academy graduates Josh Griffiths and Jack Mazzone - as well as Loick Pires and Adam Doyle, who stuggled to adapt to the step up in class promotion brought about.
Hopes were high for Pires when he signed from Welling United in the summer of 2012, but just two league goals in 23 appearances, coupled with the arrival of AFC Bournemouth striker Jayden Stockley, resulted in a loan spell at Boreham Wood during the second-half of the season. The Portuguese has now re-signed for former club Welling following their promotion from Blue Square South.
Former Farnborough defender Doyle has been constantly troubled by injury in the last 12 months, and his rare appearances seemed to often pass him by. Another star of the promotion winning team and a firm fan favourite, the club will undoubtedly be wishing him all the best for the future.
With numerous friendlies already lined up from mid-July onwards, Woking fans will be keen to hear news of further signings, particularly the renewal of contracts for the likes of club captain Ricketts, vice-captain Adam Newton, and Jack Parkinson.
The Cards take on Staines Town on Saturday 13th July, before fixtures with AFC Bournemouth, Gillingham and QPR.
Hill and assistant manager Steve Thompson will no doubt be using those games to attempt to find a winning formula that will give their side the best possible chance of surpassing last season's 12th placed finish, which saw them end the year 12 points clear of the relegation zone.
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