WHITEHAWK have set their sights on progressing from the County League.

The Hawks intend to win promotion this season and have signed eight new players.

Former Albion striker Joe Gatting is also re-signing but success this year is just the tip of the iceberg.

A new board of directors are determined to overhaul the club at all levels.

They want to replace the run-down East Brighton Park with a slick new ground on the existing site and also establish closer links with the community, offering football for all standards.

Wally Sweetman remains chairman but a group of successful businessmen with Whitehawk roots are driving the club forward and providing the funds to give the area a team to be proud of.

They know the first-team is the shop window of any club which is why they are giving joint managers George Parris and Darren Freeman the support to assemble a quality side.

New signings include Darren Budd, who was released by Eastbourne Borough at the end of last season, and one-time Manchester United reserve team striker Marc Whiteman, who joins from Hastings.

The Hawks have already been installed by some as favourites for the title but the board are keen to stress buying short-term success is not on their agenda.

The new men at the helm want to make Whitehawk Brighton’s second team and they are underpinning their plans by trying to build foundations for a lasting future.

Vice chairman Peter McDonnell and John Summers have been joined on the board by Lee Brace and Mark Turner, the Brighton and Hove branch secretary of the GMB union.

Turner said: “The aim is to get out of this league. Second to that we want to get a run in the FA Vase and in the FA Cup. That is our vision for the future.

“Our ultimate aim is to get out of this league and that has clearly been made known to the management. We are giving them the support to fund that process.

“We want a new stadium. That is very much in progress and we would hope over the coming months we will be able to release further information on the progress of that.

“As far as the community, we believe Whitehawk deserves what we are putting forward. As a community it has had the rough end of the stick in terms of investment and development over many years.

“We want to develop the ground for the football club but also for the wider community. We want something that Whitehawk and Brighton can be proud of.

“We have formed links with City College as a partner and we want to develop that relationship with other partners, the local authority, the community and the political people.”

Budd and Whiteman have been joined by young defender Chris Brencher, who was released by Albion at the end of last season, ex-Lewes midfielder Danny Davis and former Crowborough pair Justin Harris and Wes Tate. Completing the eight are another former Albion youngster, Shoreham’s Dan Taylor, and striker Ryan McBride, who is back at the club after a long-standing injury problem.

The management duo will be supported by coach Glen Davies, who was a professional at Hartlepool, and Ollie Rowland who will be chief scout.

Off the field, Whitehawk will carry out initial work this season to bring the Enclosed Ground up to Ryman League standard so that they could go up if they finish in the top two.

Brace added: “We are not looking for a short-term fix. George and Darren have their own agenda on the pitch which is fully supported by the board.

“We would like to think they will be up to the challenge.

“In the longer term, this year is a really important year. We are looking to build on the community side of the club in all aspects from mini soccer right through to ladies and girls’ football.

“We have brought in a team of specialists on the board with the purpose of taking the club to the next stage. We have had a number of high profile meetings with the City Council with regards to Whitehawk Football Club regeneration.

“We are looking to put in a planning application for a new ground where we currently are. We want to rebuild and create a small stadia.”