Alex Pike wants to offer Matt Paterson an improved contract to stay at Gosport Borough.
The former Southampton striker has forged a formidable partnership with Justin Bennett this season, netting 55 goals between them in all competitions.
I want to give him a new contract and give him a pay riseAlex Pike
Rivals the Hawks saw several bids for the front man rebuffed in January and are expected to rekindle their interest again at the end of the season.
But although Borough already have an option to extend his contract for another season, Pike believes 22-goal Paterson has done enough to earn an improved deal.
Pike said: ‘We spoke to him recently and he said he wanted to concentrate on the rest of this season but would be willing to sit down and talk at the end of the season.
‘We have got an option on his existing contract.
‘But I want to give him a new contract and give him a pay rise.
‘If he is unhappy here, I would allow him to leave but there would be a fee involved.
‘I think this is the first time in ages he has enjoyed his football and has performed consistently.
‘In previous years at other clubs, he has been a squad player and has been on the bench a lot.
‘But he is loved by Gosport Borough, he is loved by me and we’ve put an arm around him.
‘Not only have we got the best out of him but he has got the best out of my other players. So I think it’s a two-way thing. I owe him but I think he owes us as well.
‘I can understand players want to make the most of it when their stock is high but I want to talk to him about a new deal. We want to keep him.’
Pike’s side visit Bishop’s Stortford for their penultimate game of the Vanarama Conference South season tomorrow.
And although they can still mathematically make the play-offs, Pike is planning to end this season on a high to help his summer recruitment drive.
Whitehawk occupy the final play-off place and are five points ahead of Borough.
‘If we win our final two games, we can’t finish any lower than seventh,’ said Pike.
‘It would be a tremendous disappointment to me if we ended up finishing ninth or 10th.
‘That would be real underachievement in my book.
‘We’ve been in and around the top five all season and to then finish down there would not be acceptable.
‘I think we have only taken seven points out of 21 and we didn’t quite have the strength in depth we needed.
‘But I am quite lucky that Gosport are established at the upper end of the division and players want to come here now.
‘I think what we have achieved over the past couple of years will attract more players who otherwise wouldn’t have come.
‘I think it will get me a younger player who has experience of this level but maybe not at the top clubs.
‘Every club in the division has at least two players who could play in a title-winning side so it’s up to me to try to attract a couple of them to come to us.
‘But it’s the first time ever that I have got my key players signed up for next season already in April.
‘In previous years, I have spent a lot of time securing my existing players before I can start thinking about recruiting new blood.’
Dan Wooden is expected to shake off an ankle knock to return to the squad.
GOSPORT BOROUGH: (from) Ashmore, Forbes, Pearce, Poate, Williams, Carter, Robinson, Smith, Dunford, Wooden, Ramsey, Bennett, Paterson, Wort, Saez, Benham, Matthews