As Barry Smith’s first-team squad returned for pre-season training on Wednesday, midfielder Sam Hatton and defender Luke Oliver signed one-year contracts with Aldershot Town.
31 year-old Oliver made 28 appearances for Forest Green Rovers last season, having previously played 119 games for Bradford City in the Football League and 93 for Stevenage Borough. The 6ft 7 West Londoner, who won the FA Trophy with Stevenage in 2007, is primarily a centre-half but was also used as a striker by The Bantams on several occasions. In a career which spans over 350 appearances, Oliver has also played for Wycombe Wanderers, Woking, Yeovil Town and Salisbury City.
Hatton made 45 appearances for The Shots in 2014-15, in both midfield and at full-back, having joined from Grimsby Town last summer, and was the Club’s second leading goalscorer with six. The 27 year-old initially established himself as a full-back at former club AFC Wimbledon, with whom he won the 2010-11 Conference Premier Play-Off Final. A graduate of the Stevenage Borough youth academy, the England C international went on to be a regular member of the Grimsby Town team which reached the Conference Premier Play-Offs in both 2012-13 and 2013-14, as well as the 2013 FA Trophy Final.
“It’s exciting times here and it feels like a new club for me,” admitted Hatton. “We’ve got a new manager and new players and hopefully we can push on this season. Last year we weren’t good enough as a team and it’s up to us to come together as quickly as possible to start winning games.
“Once I got a run in the team last season I thought I progressed,” he considered of his own form, “but I’m hoping that you’ll see a lot more from me this year. I scored six goals but I still wanted more, and I’m going to aim for ten this year. The manager wants to play good football, I’m excited about that and I think the Play-Offs are a good target for us.”
“I’m grateful that I’ve been given this opportunity, and hopefully I can help the team to be at the top end of the table this season,” agreed Oliver. “Aldershot Town is a very good club at this level, it established itself in the Football League and wants to get back there. The manager is very ambitious and when you hear him talk about moving down from Scotland and wanting to be successful it inspires you to come here.”
“Sam has had to take a pay cut to stay here, and for me it is massive that he still wants to be at Aldershot Town. He’s decided that he wants to stay and that’s a positive for us,” recognised Smith. “We’ll look to play an attractive style of football but we still have to be able to defend and Luke has got experience, he’s played at a higher level and he’s 6ft 7, which in this division is a big thing to be able to compete with centre-forwards of a similar height and build.
“We have got quite a young squad but his experience, especially at the back, will guide players through situations and help us to be solid. All of the players I’ve brought in are hungry and enthusiastic and they want to do better. I want these guys to progress with Aldershot Town. To have signed as many players as we have at this point is great, because I can start to work on things straight away. But we also want to add a few more.”