Captain Kane Wills hopes to see out the rest of his career at Worthing Football Club after starring at their end-of-season awards dinner last week.
The 27-year-old midfielder joined Worthing from Margate last summer and overcame a tricky opening couple of months to be named players’ player of the season, while also winning the manager’s player award and the Worthing Away Boys’ 2016/17 trophy.
Already under contract for next season, Wills admitted it was an arm around the shoulder from manager Gary Elphick which helped him produce his best football for the club: “At the start, being honest, I was playing really poorly. I could feel it in myself that I wasn’t playing great but maybe that was because I’d come to a new team and a different way of playing.
“Even though I’d played at this level before, it takes time to get used to things but it was great having Gary here. Even at my age, he put an arm around me which was massive and he just said relax, be you – and almost as soon as I heard those words I started to play my best football.”
Last summer, Wills also interested Worthing’s big local rivals Bognor Regis – who went on to win promotion through the play-offs – but he has no regrets about joining Worthing. He said: “I’ve loved this year and I’m so happy for Bognor and everything they’ve achieved. They’ve been grinding in this league for a long, long time and it’s not an easy league to get out of.
“That’s something we now want to do. It’s not easy, especially with the sort of money some teams are throwing around but I’m really excited for the project that George Dowell and Gary are building and I’m glad to be a part of it.
“The minute I signed, I said I wanted this to be the club for the rest of my career and I still hope that’s the case.
“I’d love to be a part of it and hopefully that’s going to be in a very successful team as part of a very successful club and we’ll get to where we should be and deserve to be.
“We could be a team capable of the National League. We’ve got an infrastructure that’s capable and when we stepped up and played some National League teams in one-off games last year, we did well and won three out of four.
“If we can be more consistent, hopefully we can get up there as National South, the National League, that’s where we want to be.”
On winning a hat-trick of awards, Wills said: “The players’ player award has always been the one for me because it means your team-mates appreciate you. And the ones from Gary and the fans meant it couldn’t have been much of a better evening.”
Worthing boss Elphick felt the awards were just reward for Wills and said: “The biggest thing that impressed me with Kane was that even when Omar (Bugiel) left and we had injuries and were stretched to the bare bones, he was the glue that kept everything together.
“He’s a deserved winner of all the awards and is a fantastic player. As long as I’m at this club and he is, he’s always going to be my captain.”
Chairman George Dowell’s award went to Lloyd Dawes for his goal in the FA Trophy win at Dagenham & Redbridge.
The under-18 players’ player of the year was Ruben Schneider and manager Brannon O’Neill’s player of the season was Chris Kasta.
Derek Hoskins and Roger Johnson both received awards for their long-term service to the club and former striker Omar Bugiel, who joined Forest Green Rovers in February, won the Supporters’ Association player of the season award.
Midfielder Brannon O’Neill has left Worthing to join Dorking Wanderers after three years at Woodside Road.
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