The Rocks are sweating on Luke Nightingale’s future after the veteran damaged his knee.
The Nyewood Lane favourite had already considered quitting the game after a long-running series of injury problems.
He decided to give the Rocks another season - to the delight of all at the Lane - but has now had a big setback.
The Rocks are waiting for the damaged to be assessed but Nighitngale is out of the picture for now.
It’s been a bleak development in an otherwise positive pre-season for the squad, who are looking sharp in training .
They’re eager to get stuck into their first friendly, which sees Crawley bring their Football League preparations to Nyewood Lane next Tuesday.
Joint Rocks manager Jamie Howell said: “Luke’s not kicked a ball yet and he’s aggravated his knee while working as a plumber.
“We’re waiting to see what the prognosis is but you have to remember he has had nine operations on his knee and has very little cartilage left. He’s having an injection and we just have to hope for the best.”
The Rocks have been training three times a week with most of last season’s squad involved as well as a couple of ex-Rocks like Chris Breach and Lewis Ide - as reported last week - and some other triallists.
Howell said a couple of those who had turned up at the start of pre-season had been told they probably didn’t have a future with the club but others had showed enough promise to continue training.
Another former fans’ favourite is now back and training with the squad - former Pompey youth winger Louie Castles, who impressed supporters with a spell in the 2009-10 team.
He played in a Havant & Waterlooville side who lost to Brighton under-21s but is not staying at West Leigh Park, but could provide the answer to the lack of width left in the Rocks squad now that Dan Royce and Phil Turner aren’t around.
Howell said: “Numbers at the sessions have been good and we’re working out who could do a job for us and who perhaps couldn’t.
“We’re being honest with players in telling them we don’t expect our first-choice team to be very different from last season’s, but you always need competition for places.”
The absence at present of Nightingale is offset by the sight of new striker Terry Dodd - Worthing’s top scorer last season - looking good among his new squad-mates.
He has impressed joint manager Darin Killpartrick who has started to step up the players’ ball work.
Killpartrick said: “He’s a decent player and I’m excited to have him on board and looking forward to working with him. He’s great technically, he looks the part and I think the fans will take to him.”
A reasonable crowd is expected in for Tuesday night’s Crawley game and Howell said it would be a good test for the Rocks.
“The result doesn’t really matter but it will show us how far we have come - particularly defensively - and areas we still need to work on. I’m not saying we’re going to beat them but I wouldn’t want or expect us to get hammered,” Howell said.
The management are pleased the new fixtures have given the Rocks (see right of page) a home start, with Chipstead visiting the Lane for the opener on Saturday, August 20.
The next three games bring visits to two Ryman one south new boys Hythe and Croydon Athletic then a home bank-holiday tussle with Sussex rivals Whitehawk.