BRIAN STOCK has turned down a full-time coaching role at Premier League side AFC Bournemouth to play in the National League with the Hawks next season.
It is a massive boost for manager Lee Bradbury, having his captain available as he puts his squad together for next season.
Midfielder Stock, 36, admits it wasn’t an easy decision to make and one that couldn’t be rushed into.
He said: ‘I had to think long and hard about my options before coming to a decision.
‘It was a fantastic opportunity with AFC Bournemouth where I have a lot of links and contacts.
‘I had a long chat with Lee Bradbury and he let me know he wanted me to stay.
‘After weighing everything up I agreed to stay and sign another one year deal.
‘Before deciding I took a lot of advice from other ex-professional footballers.
‘They all said the time to pack in was when you stop enjoying it.
‘After the last couple of seasons with the Hawks I felt I deserved the chance to give it one more year. I still feel that I have something to offer both on and off the pitch.
‘Importantly I don’t want people to look at me and say my legs have gone.
‘At the moment I feel fit. When the time comes I want to retire from football and not have football retire me.
‘We have had a great spirit in the squad and that was another factor.
‘The other players wanted me to stay and that made the decision easier.’
Stock’s ability and experience in the midfield was a big factor in the Hawks’ title-winning season.
He has the ability to act as the pivot and initiator of the Hawks attacks.
His range and accuracy of passing often puts his team on the front foot.
The influence on the other players around him is also another key ingredient.
He commands respect and gets the best from his team-mates.
Stock accepts stepping up will be tough for the Hawks.
At the same time the team have taken all the challenges of the last two seasons in their stride.
He added: ‘Not many thought we would do so well going back into National League South last season.
‘I remember saying to my wife four months before the end of the season that we would win the title.
‘There was this funny feeling because we kept churning out results.
‘In the end I was proved right. Now we have to be ready to go again at the higher level.
‘It is exciting times at the club and it is great to be part of it.’
The Hawks have already sold more than 200 season tickets for next season with excitement continuing to build ahead of taking on the National League challenge.
Pre-season starts with a friendly at Gosport Borough on July 3 (7.45pm).