MARK Bentley is pleased to have persuaded the core of last season’s Canvey Island squad to remain.

Bentley, who replaced Danny Heale as the Gulls’ boss in October, is looking forward to a first full campaign in charge.

And the former Southend United midfielder is content after seeing his squad take shape ahead of the forthcoming Isthmian North season.

Bentley said: “I had meetings with all of the players straightaway after the season ended.

“I made it clear who I wanted to keep here.

“It’s great that so many of the players who were here last season have committed their immediate future to the club and I’m pleased.

“They are ready to go again and I’m looking forward to seeing them all in action in the upcoming campaign.”

James White, Kane Gilbert, Josh Hutchinson, Ryan Melaugh, Ade Osifuwa, Harry Palmer and Elliott Warren have committed their future to Canvey.

Jake Jolliffe and Alex Stephenson, meanwhile, are continuing their rehabilitation after lengthy injuries last term.

Bentley has also strengthened his options by adding Michael Finneran, Sammy Knott, Albert Levett and George Purcell to the mix.

And Bentley will be hoping to challenge for promotion to the Isthmian Premier League following a disappointing campaign.

Canvey were out of the promotion picture early in the season, largely thanks to their poor home form.

But Bentley will be unable to call upon two key players from last term after they secured summer moves.

Frankie Merrifield, who ended the Isthmian North campaign with eight goals in four appearances, has joined Isthmian Premier League side East Thurrock United.

And former West Ham United and Concord Rangers left-back Jordan Brown, who filled in at right-back on numerous occasions as Bentley was made to contend with a catalogue of defensive injuries last term, has also linked up with John Coventry’s Rocks.

Although he was disappointed to see them depart, Bentley admitted he would not stand in the way of the duo climbing the football pyramid.

Bentley added: “I have lost Frankie Merrifield and Jordan Brown, who I didn’t want to see leave the club.

“Like with the rest of the players, I sat down with them at the end of the season.

“They both received offers from East Thurrock and I’m not going to stand in a player’s way if they have the opportunity to go and play at a higher level.

“I wanted to keep both of them with us and they were two players who impressed me last season.

“But I wish them all the best at their new club.”