Ex-Portsmouth defender Sam Magri: Why I snubbed Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge to join Havant & Waterlooville

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Sam Magri rejected advances from Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge in favour of dropping out of the National League.

Instead the Hawks became his destination as the opportunity to play closer to home proved an irresistible lure.

The former Pompey defender has spent recent years featuring in the National League for Dover and then Ebbsfleet, winning admirers.

Yet the gruelling commute from his Hilsea home forced a summer rethink after becoming a free agent.

Impressed by new Hawks boss Paul Doswell’s ambitious close-season overhaul, Magri this week elected to relocate to National League South.

That meant disappointment for ex-Football League clubs Barnet and Dagenham & Redbridge, who were keen on the 25-year-old.

Former Pompey defender Sam Magri (right) has linked-up with ambitious Hawks. Picture: Toby Barton

Former Pompey defender Sam Magri (right) has linked-up with ambitious Hawks. Picture: Toby Barton

The opportunity to spend more time with wife Ellie and eight-month-old son Nico, though, was decisive.

Magri said: ‘I had offers from Dagenham and Barnet, but they are too far away.

‘The money in the National League isn’t Premier League level, it’s expensive to move to areas around those clubs, while we already have a place in Portsmouth.

‘Having commuted for five years, I'd had enough.

‘The Hawks are 10 minutes away, perfect really, so once I spoke to the manager my mind was made up.

‘It shocked a few people that I dropped down, but I feel it’s the right decision.

‘Now I can get home and see the baby more often – while hopefully not receive as many fines for being late!

‘It was hard to drop down, but once I spoke to the manager and he explained what he wants to achieve going forward, it was quite exciting.

‘The Westleigh Park set-up is as good as any National League club I have been at – and I want to take the Hawks back there.’

Ebbsfleet finished eighth last season, one place outside the play-offs.

Meanwhile, the Hawks, then under Lee Bradbury, were relegated during a maiden campaign at that level.

But ambition is focused on a swift return.

Magri added: ‘The team have good players and want to bounce straight back.

‘The manager asked me if I had ever won anything. I’d been in the play-offs a couple of times, that’s all – and he wants to win the league.’