SKIPPER Kane Wills said an emotional farewell to the Rocks and their fans and told them: There’s no other club like this one.
The midfielder has signed for Bognor’s Ryman premier rivals Margate but took the time to praise manager Jamie Howell, coach Darin Killpartrick, the players and supporters.
He took the microphone at the club’s players’ presentation night after picking up an award for the goal of the season – his long-range special at Lewes – and a special award from the supporters’ club.
Wills is one of two key players leaving Nyewood Lane. Long-serving central defender Stuart Axten is relocating to Scotland with his girlfriend and, like Wills, will be another figure hard to replace.
Wills told the large crowd at the presentation night: “The last three-and-a-half years has been absolutely amazing. You can’t get a better club than this.
“I wouldn’t be playing football now if it weren’t for Dabba and Jamie. I was going to quit football and they turned it round for me.
“You can’t beat the way Bognor play and I just want to say thanks for the memories – it’s been an unbelievable experience.”
Wills got a big ovation from fans who understand his decision to move to Margate.
The Kent club, who seem intent on winning the Ryman premier title next season, are spending big to build a powerful team – and there was no way Bognor could come even close to matching the deal Margate had put together for Wills, who made 205 starts for Bognor and seven appearances as sub, scoring 17 goals.
Boss Howell wished Wills all the best and said he was delighted to hear a player explain how the Rocks had furthered his career.
It’s the sort of sentiment that will help the club attract young and ambitious footballers to the Lane.
Coach Killpartrick said: “It was quite moving to hear Kane say what he did. We try to do things the right way and it’s nice when that’s appreciated.”
Howell said Axten;’s departure would leave another hole to fill. “He was my first signing when I can back to Bognor as manager and he’s done everything I’ve wanted him to do.
“He’s a very good player but a nice lad too and will be difficult to replace.”
The Rocks have at least taken the first step towards covering the loss of Wills, convincing young midfielder Doug Tuck to sign a new one-year contract.
Howell said he still had other players to talk to regarding the 2014-15 campaign and revealed he had players waiting in the wings who were keen to come to the club.
“There’s a young lad with aspirations of playing in the Football League and our message to him and others like him is they can come here, play and do well for us and see where it takes them.”
Defender Craig Robson was named the Rocks’ fans’ player of the year at the presentation night, held at Seasons, while Terry Dodd, Ollie Pearce, James Crane and Wills and Axten also picked up prizes.