NEW Christchurch boss Adie Arnold has retained four of the club’s elder statesmen for the upcoming Sydenhams Premier campaign.

Midfield talisman Mark Smith and burly frontman Gareth Barnes, both 36, have agreed to revert to playing roles having briefly taken on coaching duties towards the end of last season.

Experienced defensive duo Dan Steer and James Baker are also staying put, giving Arnold’s squad much-needed stability as he seeks to build a youthful side around an experienced nucleus.

Two further players from last season’s squad – former Brockenhurst wide man Lee Clark and up-and-coming full-back Connor Doe – have also committed their futures to the Hurn Bridge outfit, while Arnold has snapped up midfield protégé Nathan Saxby from his old club Verwood.

“Everything is fitting into place nicely,” said Arnold.

“Smudger (Smith) came back and was bang up for it as you would expect. He looks razor-sharp and, like Barnsey and the other senior players, will have a massive influence when the chips are down.

“They have all been there and done it. There is only so much you can do from the touchline when it gets hairy at places like Portchester, Moneyfields and Horndean on a rainy Tuesday night, so they will be there to offer the right guidance on the pitch.”

Striker Mike Haskell, Verwood’s joint-top scorer during their maiden Sydenhams Premier Division campaign, has been training with Christchurch having taken a break from Saturday football for the majority of last season.