Lewes have put their faith in summer signing Rob Gradwell after deciding to release experienced striker Jean-Michel Sigere.

Rooks boss Steve Ibbitson is close to finalising his squad for the new season and has revealed there is no part to play for Sigere or James Fraser.

Ibbitson is still working within a strict budget at the Dripping Pan and he revealed it came down to a choice between Gradwell, who scored three goals in six games on loan from Hayes and Yeading at the end of last season, or Sigere.

The 33-year-old former France under-21 striker rejoined Lewes for a second spell last December and scored four goals in 21 appearances to help the Rooks avoid relegation from Blue Square south.

But Ibbitson believes 19-year-old Gradwell, who was his first signing of the summer, offers a better long-term prospect for Lewes.

He said: “Siggy has been a great servant to the club. He did well for us when he came back last year but we had to look at the budget.

“Having got Rob Gradwell we felt, with the budget considerations, it almost came down to a choice between the two.

“Siggy scored a few goals and helped in our revival but Rob is young, he did well at the end of last year and it was a choice we had to make.”

Fraser, the younger brother of former Albion midfielder Tommy, has also been released and has a trial lined up at a Football League club.

Fellow midfielder Williams Peauroux requires a knee operation which will keep him out until at least the new year and is therefore not part of Ibbitson’s squad plans.

Ibbitson still has a couple of last year’s players to talk to but has commitments from 17 players for the new season and talks lined up with a couple more potential signings.

The players committed are goalkeepers Chris Winterton and JJ Banasco-Zaragoza, defenders Anthony Barness, Marc Pullan, Chris Breach, Sonny Cobbs, Lewis Hamilton, Andy Pearson and Scott Manning plus midfielders David Wheeler, Ross Sutton, Jack Walder, Simon Wormull, Lewis Ide and Jamie Crellin.

At present the Rooks have just two strikers – Gradwell and Tim Rivers – and that is the area where Ibbitson knows he needs more options.

He said: “I still have a couple of last year’s players to talk to and a couple of potential new players but I am very pleased with the way the squad is shaping up. We have got together what we think is a strong squad.

“I am really pleased to get Rob Gradwell. We have got Tim Rivers who is a year older and stronger but we are looking for another type of striker who is quick to get in and work off a target man. That would be the last piece of the jigsaw.

“Our intention this season is to do the best we can and I would hope with the side we have it won’t be another relegation battle.”

Lewes return to training tonight ahead of the first friendly away to Worthing on July 17.

Ibbitson admits they are starting back early but believes it is the right thing for the squad.

He said: “When we took over we felt the two areas we could work on was organisation and fitness.

“We did well in the organisation and got the back four playing together as well as the midfielders and forwards. We were happy with the shape of the team.

“Where we let ourselves down as coaches was that I don’t think we got the players fit enough. We trained regularly but didn’t have enough emphasis on physical fitness.

“We want to do a lot of work with the ball and to make training enjoyable but we believe we have to work them harder. It will benefit them and it will benefit the team.”