Eastleigh offer deals to four young guns

By Wendy Gee

EASTLEIGH have underscored their commitment to youth by offering contracts to four more up-and-coming young guns.

Seventeen-year-old striker Sam Wilson is already under contract for 2012/13 and now Ben Wilson, Will Aimson, Matt Gray and Callum Casson have the chance to join him.

Director Neil Fox and manager Ian Baird met the quartet on Wednesday and gave them until today to decide if they want to be part of the club's exciting future mapped out by Fox and fellow majority shareholder Stewart Donald.

Although Baird believes he will need a street-wise squad to achieve Bridle's goal of promotion to the Blue Square Bet Premier, the club will not close the door on youth.

Baird, who started with three teenagers - Sam Wilson, Aimson and on-loan Saints goalkeeper Jack Dovey - in last Saturday's excellent 1-0 win at Welling, said: "To play all the young names mentioned and expect to get promoted is a bridge too far, but we've got three or four players with potential that we'd like to keep.

"This club is going places - with or without me - and it's down to these young players to show they want to be part of it. I need to know where I stand with the squad and the budget."

At the start of the season, youngsters like the Wilsons trained daily with Eastleigh as part of a full-time programme which has since been ditched.

"Having a full-time programme wouldn't be financially viable at the moment and it doesn't guarantee that youngsters play," Baird explained.

Eastleigh tomorrow wind up their home campaign against a Chelmsford City side clinging desperately to the fourth and final play-off spot in the BSB South,

"It's an important game - especially for them," said Baird,

"They're right in the mix, but they're under pressure because of the form of Basingstoke and Dover behind them - and Basingstoke have a game in hand."

With Damian Scannell and Chris Flood injured and Sam Wilson (hamstring) and Bradley Bubb (thigh) doubtful, Baird is again likely to give youth a chance.

Due to a gentleman's agreement, Chelmsford are unable to play targetman Jamie Slabber who joined them from Eastleigh last month.

Baird, menawhile, has confirmed that striker Richard Gillespie - currently on loan at Bashley - will not have his contract renewed this summer.

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