LITTLE Oakley boss Matt Carmichael expects his side to be a force to be reckoned with after seven heroes from last season committed themselves to the club by signing FA contracts.

Brad James, Joss Neale, Dan Joyce, Luke Mayhew, Greg Rodger, Harry Mann and Josh Merritt have all penned deals keeping them at the Memorial Ground.

The official paperwork is binding and means they will all remain part of the Acorns squad.

"This is the core of our squad from last season and I'm absolutely delighted that they've agreed to sign contracts, keeping them at Oakley," said Carmichael.

"It was something I always wanted to get sorted and most of these boys actually put pen to paper at the end of last season.

"It's great for them and us, as a club, because everyone knows where they stand.

"It gives us some protection, in case other clubs come knocking, and it means I know where I am in terms of the players I've got at my disposal.

"It's nice to know I don't need to do any major rebuilding. I haven't got to go out looking for players.

"It's a sign of our ambition and shows that the players have a lot of affection for Oakley.

"At the end of the day, they're signing for the club, not me, and it shows how committed they are."

While delighted to get key players tied down, Carmichael also hopes to make three or four new signings.

Talks have already taken place and he is confident those in question will end up joining.

One of them is former Acorn Shaun Kioussis, who has rejoined from Harwich and Parkeston.

"I'd like to bring in another three or four, to help make the squad even more competitive," he said.

"If we can do that, it'll help take us to a level whereby we're serious contenders for the league.

"At the end of the day, that's our ambition.

"We want to get promotion and we want to win the league but, first and foremost, we want to be stronger and more competitive than last season."

Carmichael also confirmed that all of last season's squad members have indicated they want to return.

No-one has announced they want to move on.

Oakley have confirmed details of five pre-season friendlies.

They will entertain FC Clacton on July 6 and Stowmarket Town on July 13, before a trip to Mildenhall Town on July 20.

Brantham Athletic pay a visit on July 23 before a trip to Needham Market Reserves on July 27.

The players return to pre-season training on June 27.