The Rocks are calm about how their squad is coming together for the new season – and have been boosted by recently-departed Dan Beck predicting they will have a good campaign.
Young Pompey forwards Bradley Lethbridge and Dan Smith made impressive debuts in a 1-0 friendly win at Salisbury last Friday, with manager Jack Pearce feeling both will give the Rocks an extra edge in attack they were lacking last season.
The Bognor fans are absolute class – one of the best sets around. I remember them taking a whole coachload as far away as Lowestoft for a game. There aren’t too many non-league clubs around that could do that.Dan Beck
And in a further boost, it looks like keeper Dan Lincoln will at least start the season at Nyewood Lane.
Boss Pearce still wants to add one or two more players and may recruit a left-back with National League experience later this week.
The Rocks begin the Bostik premier campaign a week Saturday at Haringey and they have been wished well for the season by former captain Beck, who has moved to their league rivals Burgess Hill after more than 400 appearances in a Bognor shirt and 42 goals – including a strike in an FA Trophy semi-final at Grimsby that so nearly took them to Wembley two years ago.
Beck said he had not left the Rocks because of any ill will, but because his personal circumstances meant he could no longer commit to travelling to Bognor three times a week.
“I live in Brighton and the journey takes an hour or more each way. I’ve gone self-employed and have a young family and Bognor just wouldn’t have worked for me any longer,” he told the Observer. “It would have been unfair on Bognor and on me.
“Burgess Hill train at Falmer and it is a good move for me. I’m 34 and didn’t want to stop playing.
“I’d like to thank Jack Pearce and everyone at the club for the support given to me over the years. Jack and the club have played a big part in my life.
“Jack is a great guy on and off the pitch and only wants what’s best for the club. I imagine I’ll still speak to him quite often. We’ll have a bit of banter when Burgess Hill are playing Bognor, I’m sure.
“I’m proud when I look back on my time at Bognor. I left and went back a couple of times and was always happy to go back. It’s a lovely club. It’s a family-friendly club and I know my kids will miss going down there.”
Beck said the highlights of his Nyewood Lane career were the 2012 and 2017 promotions from Ryman one south and the Ryman premier – both of which were won with him as captain.
The run to the FA Trophy semi-finals in 2016, in which the Rocks beat five clubs from higher divisions, was another stand-out memory.
He added: “The Bognor fans are absolute class – one of the best sets around. I remember them taking a whole coachload as far away as Lowestoft for a game. There aren’t too many non-league clubs around that could do that.
“Last season was tough, it just didn’t work out for us, but I’m sure Bognor will come back stronger this season. They’ve a lot of good young players and I think they’ll do well in the division.
“I’m excited by the new challenge at Burgess Hill. I know Ian Chapman (manager) and Stuart Tuck (assistant) and people like Gary Elphick and Gary Charman in the squad.
“They’ve only just stayed up the past couple of seasons but the manager wants to kick on, and I think we’ll do well. The games gainst Bognor are ones I’m looking forward to.”
Beck picked out Jason Prior, Luke Nightingale and Michael Birmingham as three of the best team-mates he’d had at the Lane and also singled out his old midfield partner Doug Tuck from the present-day squad as a player with a lot of talent and a bright future.
Bognor go to Gosport tomorrow (August 3) for their final friendly.