Bognor’s longest-standing player says the FA Trophy semi-final clash with Grimsby is a reward for everyone who has been with the Rocks thorugh the lows as well as the highs of recent seasons.
Defender James Crane joined the club as a 19-year-old in the 2008-09 and was part of the squad who suffered back-to-back relegations that saw them fall from Conference South to division one south of the Ryman League.
The full-back has also played a big part in the rise back up to the upper reaches of the Ryman premier and in this season’s FA Cup and Trophy exertions, and plans to savour the good times as much as he can.
Crane told the Observer: “We’re two legs from the final and that does feel different to previous rounds. You can’t help but think about the final and Wembley but as players we have to focus on these two legs of the semi-final and give it our best shot.
“Grimsby are about the hardest team you can play in non-league and no-one is expecting us to get through. But quietly, we think we have a chance. We’re not scared of anyone in non-league.
“We deserved to get this far. We’ve not beaten Altrincham, Sutton or Torquay through luck, we have taken them on and won on merit.”
Crane said the Trophy run meant players were being recognised locally and stopped in the street. “It’s surreal and quite humbling for me – people I’ve never met have come up to me in Chichester and wished us well for the next game,” he said.
“We are trying to approach the first leg in our normal way. If we can nick a 1-0 win or a draw, or even if we lose 1-0, we can go up for the second leg with a chance – that’s what we want.
“A lot of us watched Grimsby win at Forest Green on BT Sport last Friday and they look a strong bunch. It will be tough.
“For me, being the longest-serving player, I suppose it’s extra-special. I made my Bognor debut on my 19th birthday and that was before Jamie and Dabba became joint managers (in 2009).
“I’ve never had a season here where there’s been nothing to play and to still be in the Trophy and in with a chance of promotion is brilliant.”
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