Rocks v Pompey is OFF

Rocks v Pompey action in 2016 / Picture by Tim Hale
Rocks v Pompey action in 2016 / Picture by Tim Hale
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Bognor have called off their planned friendly against Pompey after the Blues told them they were not sending their first-team squad to Nyewood Lane.

It will be the first time in five years Nyewood Lane has not hosted the game, which is a big money-spinner for them and a vital part of their annual income.

Rocks general manager Jack Pearce made the decision after Pompey officials confirmed his worst fears that having changed the game to a 'Pompey XI' game they would not send the first team.

The irony is this year's planned fixture - originally pencilled in for July 19 then changed to July 18 - was, said Pearce, initiated by previous Blues boss Paul Cook calling Bognor and asking them to plan it in.

The game would have attracted a crowd of around 2,000 and would have given the Rocks a profit of several thousand pounds to set them up for the season ahead - just as it has for each of the past four summers.

Pompey insist they want to retain good relationships with all their nearby non-league clubs but believe it should be expected that a new manager is always likely to want to run a pre-season campaign in the way he feels is best for his players.

Pearce told the Bognor Observer: "Portsmouth asked us to move the date from July 19 to July 18 and even though we'd had a big do planned at our clubhouse on July 18, we did that. Then their secretary spoke to ours and mentioned that it was to be a Pompey XI. The original agreement between Paul Cook, Jamie Howell (when he was still Bognor manager) and I was that it would be a first-team squad coming over.

"We became nervous about what a Pompey XI meant and we were informed on Thursday this week that our fears were correct - it would be the youth squad with a couple of first-team squad members.

"No disrespect to them but that's not acceptable to us, therefore we said we'd not be taking part."

Pearce said he was 'very disappointed' Pompey were not honouring a previously-made commitment.

Pompey's friendly at Sutton has also been called off although they are now sending an 'XI' to Newport on the Isle of Wight on July 18 - the date they were going to go to Bognor.

Pompey bosses are believed to be surprised Bognor do not want to play a 'Pompey XI' which would still have contained familiar names and which both clubs could have been up front about publicising, perhaps charging a lower admission fee than would have been applied had the Blues first team been involved.

Bognor fans look forward to the game - as do many Pompey fans who make the trip - and will be disappointed it is not going to happen.

Pearce said it was another squeeze on the Rocks' budget - coming on top of the fact that in the National League they have to pay players for two extra weeks, and have two fewer home games to earn income.

Havant and Waterlooville and Eastleigh now appear to be the only two non-league clubs who will get a visit from a strong Pompey first-team squad, but Fratton Park officials hope the changes do not harm their long-term relationship with the Rocks, who have staged academy games and taken Pompey youngsters on loan in recent seasons. Bognor will also be keen to keep up good links.

The biggest game on Bognor's pre-season list is now a home clash with Crawley Town, which is on July 26 (7.45pm).

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