STEVE KING today spoke of his disappointment of losing fans favourite David Wheeler to Blue Square South side Staines Town – but wished the local Lewes player well and said he would always be welcome back at the Dripping Pan.
On the day that Lewes FC announced three more new signings in former players Jamie Cade, signed from Horsham, and Stuart Robinson, from Farnborough, plus prolific goalscorers Ian Draycott, Rooks boss King said he did all he could to keep Wheeler at the Pan. But he insisted he understood why the former England Schoolboys International felt he had to move to a club nearer his university campus.
The winger, who has been at the Dripping Pan since he was 16, found the travelling difficult last season from his University in West London and has opted for a club which is nearer to his new base, having signed for Stains over the weekend.
“There was nothing we could do,” said King. “It was totally out of our hands and our control.
“We tried to keep him but at the end of the day if he’s at university right next to the (Staines Town) ground, he’s got to do what’s best for him.
“You can never say what’s going to happen in the future in football, but you can never say never. He’s a good lad and he’s always welcome back at this club.”
The Lewes Board of Directors, said on the club website that they were particularly saddened to see Wheeler leave. They said: “The manager and club have been very keen to hold on to David. He is a special player and much loved by all the fans.
“But David has decided that the travelling distance, sometimes three times a week, is too much to fit in with his University course and has opted for a more local option in Staines Town.
“We are very sad to see him go, but we wish him every success in his studies and at his new club. He goes with our absolute best wishes.”
King spoke enthusiastically of his new signings, starting with young sharp-shooter Draycott, who has joined the Rooks from Zamaretto Premier side Bedford Town.
“He’s only 22; when he was 19 he was scoring regularly in the Blue Square South,” said King. “And he scored 20-odd goals in the Zamaretto when I was winning the league (with Farnborough).
“He’s a versatile forward; he’s a different kind of player (to Paul Booth) but depending on which system we play, whether it’s 4-3-3 or 4-4-2, he can be flexible.
“He’s got two good feet and has decent pace, but the best way to describe him, I think, is to say he’s sharp.
“We’ve got him and we’ve got Boothy, who can both score 20-odd goals a year.”
Draycott’s is described on the club website as: “A lively striker (who) scored 24 goals last season and over 20 the previous season. He also played alongside the departing David Wheeler in the England Schoolboys team.”
King was also delighted to bring back Jamie Cade to the Pan. Cade, who is still only 26, is know by Lewes fans for his high industry and also his athletic goal celebrations.
“We’re obviously we’re happy to have brought Jamie back,” said King. “You know what you’re going to get with him; he’s a regular seven-out-of-ten man and wears his heart on his sleeve out on the field.
“He’s one of the main reasons Horsham stayed up last year. His form after Christmas, when he scored 11 goals, was a major factor in them avoiding relegation.”
And of goalkeeper Robinson, who played in goal in the Rooks’ bitter-sweet final match of the season at home to Weston-super-Mare when Lewes lifted the Blue Square South trophy in 2008: “A number of clubs tried to sign him this summer so we’re happy to secure his services. He’s 6ft 8ins and is still learning his trade, and hopefully he keeps improving in his trade. He’s got lots of potential and has improved in the three years (since he was at Lewes) so still has time to fulfil his potential.