DARREN FREEMAN has turned down job offers from higher division clubs because he wants to be part of a success story at Lewes.

The Rooks have today announced that Freeman has pledged his future to the club by signing a one-year contract.

Assistant Ross Standen and coach Tony Coade have also signed deals to keep them at the Dripping Pan.

It is a strong show of faith by Lewes after Freeman oversaw the club’s relegation from Ryman premier last season, having taken over with the Rooks in a desperate position last October.

However, it is also a demonstration of commitment from Freeman, the former Albion favourite, who led Whitehawk from the County League to Conference south in his first managerial role.

He admits interest from other clubs this summer has been nice but he never had any intention of leaving.

Freeman revealed: “I had a couple of job offers which was nice but my heart is at Lewes.

“They were from clubs at a higher level but I told them the truth: Lewes is a great club and it was a no-brainer for me to stay.”

Freeman is convinced the community-owned club are capable of bouncing back at the first attempt with promotion from Ryman south in 2016-17.

He has already brought in six new signings this summer as well as persuading the core of last season’s squad to stay.

Freeman told The Argus: “We are really happy at the club. We are managing what for me could be the biggest (non-league) club in Sussex with fantastic support from behind the scenes.

“This is a club I would like to stay at for a while and really build something.

“My aim in the long term is to get Lewes back into the Conference south and in the short term back into Ryman premier.

“That is why I am signing the contract. The club have seen how hard we work and it is nice they feel we can take the club forward.

“They have similar ambitions to me and it is a win-win situation.”

So far this summer Lewes have signed forwards Lloyd Dawes (Worthing), Dan Perry (Burgess Hill) and Jamie Brotherton (Three Bridges) plus Josh Jones, Tom Vickers and Sam Gore.

Highly-rated youngster Charlie Coppola, who was on trial at Premier League champions Leicester City towards the end of the campaign, is among a number of players who have already signed up for next season.

Top scorer Jonte Smith has left to join Welling, although that was perhaps inevitable given the Bermuda international’s form in the second half of 2015-16, while Yasin Ben El-Mhanni is not expected to return having finished the season on trial at Chelsea.

However, Freeman is delighted with how the squad is coming together.

He said: “The directors have seen the people we have brought in and they agree we are well placed to have a good season.”

l Darren Budd has rejoined Bognor as boss Jamie Howell bids to rebuild his squad following the departure of a number of key players.

The former Albion midfielder - who left Nyewood Lane in 2007 - becomes Bognor’s first signing of the summer having left Burgess Hill at the end of last season. His arrival follows the exit of Jason Prior, Craig Robson and Alfie Rutherford in the wake of Bognor’s defeat in the Ryman premier play-offs.