Key Worthing duo depart – but four commit to Rebels for 2024-25 and one arrives

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There’s good and bad news for Worthing FC fans as their squad starts to take shape for next season – with the blow of losing two of last season’s star performers softened by news that four members of the squad have already committed for the 2024-25 campaign. Added to that is news of their first new signing.

To the surprise of few, prolific goalscorer Ollie Pearce is moving up a step of the non-league pyramid – and he is one of two Worthing players linking up again with former manager Adam Hinshelwood at National Premier side York. Joe Felix is also making the move.

The better news is that captain Joel Colbran, Kane Wills, Nicky Wheeler and Greg Luer are all on board for Worthing’s next bid for National South glory under new manager Chris Agutter.

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Worthing said: “Pearce leaves the club as the tenth top-scorer in the club’s history with 155 goals in 245 appearances in Red. The 2023/24 campaign was a remarkable one for the striker as he scored 46 goals in just 51 appearances across all competitions, winning the golden boot in the National League South by a distance."

Ollie Pearce has been snapped up by Adam Hinshelwood at York City | Picture: Mike GunnOllie Pearce has been snapped up by Adam Hinshelwood at York City | Picture: Mike Gunn
Ollie Pearce has been snapped up by Adam Hinshelwood at York City | Picture: Mike Gunn

Pearce told the Worthing website: “I want to thank the fans for their unbelievable support to me personally and the team over the last few years. We’ve shared amazing memories together, especially winning promotion in 2022.

“I have absolutely loved my time at the club and it will always have a special place in my heart. The opportunity to play full time football is just too good to turn down.”

Pearce broke a post-WW2 club record last season, scoring in 10 consecutive matches from New Year’s Day through to the end of February. He scored his 150th club goal in the memorable 3-1 away win at eventual league champions Yeovil Town.

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Pearce added: “Last season was an incredible journey both on a personal level with the goals I scored and with the team getting ourselves so close to promotion. I’m gutted with the defeat in the final but I’ll back the boys from afar next year to go one better and get promoted!”

Joe Felix had a superb Reds season | Picture: Mike GunnJoe Felix had a superb Reds season | Picture: Mike Gunn
Joe Felix had a superb Reds season | Picture: Mike Gunn

He won both the Manager’s Player of the Season and Supporters’ Player of the Season at the club’s end-of-season awards last month.

After arriving from Dulwich Hamlet last summer, Felix quickly settled into life at Woodside Road. The versatile wing-back made 52 appearances for the Rebels last season, scoring three goals and providing 15 assists. He became a fan favourite at Woodside with his tireless performances.

Felix told Worthing website: “This is nothing against Worthing at all – what a group, what a team, what a club. The best season of my career so far. You have given me the platform to take my next step in football which is full time and for that I thank you wholeheartedly.

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“I just want to thank everyone at the club that’s helped me from day one and also the fans for always showing me unconditional support and love.”

Joel Colbran is staying with Worthing | Picture: Mike GunnJoel Colbran is staying with Worthing | Picture: Mike Gunn
Joel Colbran is staying with Worthing | Picture: Mike Gunn

Felix claimed the Player’s Player of the Season award. Worthing added: “Everyone at the club would like to wish both Ollie and Joe the very best of luck for their future careers.”

As well as those going, a number of players are staying.

Club captain Colbran has agreed terms with the club to renew his contract for the 2024/25 season.

The 25-year-old was a vital part of the squad last term, making 51 appearances in all competitions. He also popped up with four goals and ten assists despite operating in a more defensive role for the majority of the campaign.

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He became club captain in October after Aarran Racine was forced to retire and, under Racine’s interim management, he captained the side to the National League South play-off final against Braintree Town, where they came up just short in extra time.

Colbran said: “I’m delighted to have signed on for next season. Obviously, we’re all still hurting from the way last season ended, but now the aim is to go one better next year and get ourselves over the line.

“I’ve had good chats with Agi (Chris Agutter) and Nath (Nathan Bowen), and the vision and ambitions are clear and I’m buzzing to get going again next season.”

A former youth player at the club, Colbran was brought back to Woodside Road in October 2017. In 2022/23, he won the Manager’s Player of the Season and Supporter’s Player of the Season awards after a magnificent campaign where he tallied up five goals and 15 assists from full back.

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The defender celebrated his 250th club appearance on the final day of the league season against Weston-super-Mare.

Meanwhile Wills, Wheeler and Luer have all been confirmed as part of Agutter's squad for the 2024/25 season.

Wills has agreed terms with the club to renew his contract for a third successive season having been his ever-consistent self in the Rebels’ squad. The veteran made 38 appearances in all competitions last season and chipped in with three goals from midfield.

In his second spell at the club, he has now racked up nearly 150 appearances for the Rebels and is keen to help the club go one better and get promoted next season: “I’m over the moon to be staying with the club for another season. Under the leadership of Agi, Azza, and Deano, we have a top draw management team, and I believe we can achieve great things together,” said Wills.

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“The club is highly ambitious, both on and off the pitch, and there’s so much to look forward to. I’m excited to continue this journey and am confident that we will experience even more success. After last year, we have unfinished business to settle!”

Wheeler and Luer were brought to Woodside last summer and both made more than 30 appearances for the Rebels last term.

Wheeler settled into life at Worthing very quickly, scoring the winner on the opening day with a long-range strike against Tonbridge Angels. He made four goal contributions in his first six games for the club.

Despite being hampered by a groin injury midway through the season, Wheeler made 32 appearances in all competitions and was a key member of the squad throughout with his vast experience.

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After joining from Sussex rivals Eastbourne Borough last summer, Luer made 35 appearances for the Rebels last season and scored one goal in the 1-1 draw away at Taunton Town.

Agutter explained the importance of having experience within the camp, “We’re absolutely delighted that Willsy, Greg and Nicky will be with us next season, all 3 of them have bags of experience on top of their quality which will be crucial for the team moving forwards.

"They have all been there and done it and you can’t put a price on how important that is in our next steps as a team. Above all else, they’re the right type of person, with the right motivations, who are desperate to help Worthing continue to move onwards and upwards.”

And on Monday afternoon came news of the close season’s first signing – ex Eastbourne Borough defender Sam Beard.

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Beard enjoyed a successful loan spell in the early part of last season, before making a permanent move later in December. The versatile defender operates mainly as a left-back but has been known to play across the back line at his previous clubs. He becomes Agutter’s first signing as Worthing boss having joined the club from Hastings earlier this month.

“Beardy brings more league-winning experience to the group which will be key in the challenge ahead,” said Agutter. “Sam will also add even more energy, physicality and quality to the team as well as giving us more attacking balance with his left side. Above all else, Beardy is honest, hardworking and fully committed – he’s a proper man who will give everything to our cause.”

The defender was a key part of Eastbourne’s squad last year as they battled successfully against the drop. He made 27 league appearances for the Sports, scoring two goals, including a screamer against Weston-super-Mare.

“I’m buzzing to have signed here,” said Beard. “I know a few of the boys here and I’ve played against them over the years and they’ve always played great football and have got a great fanbase so I’m really excited.”

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Beard made the switch to Eastbourne from Barnet where he was a virtual ever-present in the 2022/23 season as they finished in the National League play-off places, making 42 appearances to take his tally to 78 across all competitions the Bees.

Before joining Barnet in the summer of 2021, Beard played a pivotal role in Dorking Wanderers’ rise through the non-league pyramid, winning two promotions in his five seasons at Meadowbank.

He also helped them into the National League South play-offs during the 2019/20 season, before being a part of the side that was top of the league in the 2020/21 campaign before it was declared null and void.

“Playing in a team that is up there and fighting for promotion is massive,” Beard continued. “You enjoy it so much more as a player and that’s what it’s about. Winning promotions, trophies, that’s what you remember, so coming here and being a part of a team that’s already been in the play-offs twice over the last two seasons is massive and I’m just hoping that I can help get them out of this league and get promoted!”

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