Steven King has pledged his future to Whitehawk and made former England C goalkeeper Lance Cronin his first signing.

Hawks were deep in relegation trouble in Conference south when King took over in February.

However, King led them to safety with seven draws and three wins from 17 matches at the helm, staying up on the final day with a 3-3 draw at home to second-placed Sutton United.

Whitehawk subsequently made it clear they wanted King – who had initially taken charge to the end of the season – to stay on and offered him a new contract.

He has now agreed to continue and set about rebuilding a squad which struggled for much of last season following their remarkable rise from County League to Conference south in four seasons.

Brighton-born former Crystal Palace keeper Cronin is King’s first new signing.

Tommy Fraser, one of the players he wanted to stay, has decided to leave and is expected to sign full-time for Ebbsfleet United.

England C international midfielder Kieran Forbes, who was signed in March, has decided to return to Forest Green Rovers while a number of other players are leaving the club including goalkeeper Chris Winterton and experienced defender Richard Rose.

Whitehawk want to make significant further improvements to the Enclosed Ground, which will cost the club money, but King is still hopeful of building a competitive team to lead the club forward.

He said: “We will try to achieve better things than last year. Every manager who has a competitive spirit will be aiming for the play-offs and I am no different to anyone else.

“I will be looking to try to make the play-offs and will put together the best possible squad I can to work towards that.”

Cronin, 28, began his career as a professional at Crystal Palace and had a loan spell at Wycombe before joining Oldham Athletic, where he made one first team appearance.

He was picked for England C after joining Ebbsfleet, where he made 176 league appearances, and later played for Gillingham, Bristol Rovers and Macclesfield, where King was his manager.

The Hawks boss said: “When I signed Lance for Macclesfield he was the best goalkeeper in Conference south and had got into the England C side.

"As soon as I came to Whitehawk he was someone I was always considering.

“He started his own business and had a year out of football but is now ready to return. There were a number of clubs who wanted him for next season but I have got him because of my relationship with him from our time at Macclesfield. He was also keen to stay local.

“I believe he will emerge again as the best goalkeeper in Conference south next season.”

Whitehawk have already taken up an option in the contract of top scorer Danny Mills to retain him for next season and King has previously stated his desire to keep former Crystal Palace and Stevenage left-back Lee Hills, although his form last season has attracted interest from other teams.

Among those leaving Whitehawk as King rebuilds are Winterton, former Gillingham and Hereford full-back Rose, David da Silva, Alex Parsons, Alex Addai and Steven Smith.

Talks are continuing with a number of other players who were at the club last season.