HAWKS manager Lee Bradbury is planning to use the ambition of new striker JJ Hooper to fuel another play-off bid next season.
Hooper was released by League Two outfit Northampton Town but still harbours ambitions for a future return to full-time football.
The 20-year-old striker ended last season on loan at Farnborough, where he scored eight goals in 10 games.
Bradbury is hoping Hooper will provide an increased goal threat for his team, who failed to reach the play-offs last season.
The Hawks narrowly missed out on goal difference on the final day of the campaign – and the lack of regular goals from his strikers proved a key factor.
‘JJ is a good signing for us and has shown in the past that he can score goals,’ said Bradbury.
‘He is young, enthusiastic, willing to learn, and at 6’1’ will give us a good presence.
‘Our job will be to nurture him and help him develop the right way.
‘Conference South can sometimes be a harsh learning ground for young players.
‘It is up to us to help him keep his feet on the ground and integrate him into the team.
‘He sees us as a stepping stone to getting back into the professional game and we can capitalise on that hunger.
‘We have shown with Chris Arthur, to AFC Wimbledon, Ollie Palmer, to Mansfield and more recently Nigel Atangana to Portsmouth that we can do that.’
Hooper began his football career with the Newcastle United Academy, signing a two-year scholarship deal with them in August 2011.
He celebrated that deal in fine style the very next day, scoring a hat-trick against Chelsea under-18s.
In November 2012, he went out on loan to Darlington, before earning himself a one-year deal at Northampton after impressing in a trial.
Last season he went out on loan to Conference Premier Alfreton Town, before going to Farnborough in March.
Bradbury isn’t ruling out adding more players to his squad, and after the success of Frenchman Atangana, is willing to look to the continent again.
‘I have a couple of strikers coming over during pre-season for four or five days,’ said Bradbury.
‘One is a Spanish lad and the other from France.
‘There are a lot of good players on the continent but it is important to do your homework.
‘Bringing Atangana over paid off but we have to make sure that the players we bring in can adapt and integrate into English football.
‘We will have a good look at them before making any decisions.’
The Hawks start training on Thursday, before playing their first pre-season friendly at Horndean next Monday.
The following Saturday, Atangana is sure to get a terrific welcome back when he is likely to don the Pompey shirt for the first time in the friendly at Westleigh Park.