TALKS have begun with senior Rocks players as the Nyewood Lane management plot a season in which they can finish higher than this term.
Defeats to Enfield and Lewes over Easter put paid to lingering hopes of Bognor snatching a play-off place. But work behind the scenes is already well under way to ensure a competitive squad is in place in good time to push for honours in 2015-16.
Injuries have piled up at just the wrong time for the Rocks this time around, with the likes of Ollie Pearce, Alex Parsons, Doug Tuck, Harvey Whyte and Stuart Green having been missed crucial periods of the run-in.
But bosses know the key factor that has kept them out of the leading pack was a start to the season which brought four defeats and three draws in the first seven games.
Manager Jamie Howell is keen to avoid another slow start and knows the key will be to tie down existing players and identify which parts of he squad need close-season strengthening.
“We’ve been talking to players about next season for a couple of months. We don’t want to lose anything like the number we lost at the end of last season,” he said.
“There’s always the chance that one or two will move on but we are already doing what we can to get the key players to commit for next season.”
The summer ought to give three long-term casualties – full-backs Paul Hinshelwood and Daryl Wollers and winger Ben Johnson – plenty of chance to get fully fit. And if they can be added to most of the line-up that took the club to the fringes of the play-off race before the recent defeats, it begins to look like a solid nucleus.
A year ago the Rocks lost the likes of Stuart Axten, Kane Wills and Terry Dodd – although Dodd has since returned – and it took the club the whole summer and the early weeks of the season to get the squad back up to strength.
Meanwhile Howell is pledging his players will be giving their all in the final three games – all of which are against promotion hopefuls – despite knowing they are not going up or down themselves.
“We want to go out with a couple of wins and amass as many points as we can,” he said. “We haven’t been strong enough to sustain our play-off challenge and even with a full squad available, it would have been very tough to get in the top five.
“We still have to play Leiston (at home this Saturday), Wingate & Finchley and Margate and those games are a good chance to show how far we’ve come since our bad start.”
They go into the final trio of fixtures with another two players in the treatment room. Jack Maloney and Tuck both suffered hamstring injuries within the same minute early in the 2-1 loss to Lewes and look set to join Pearce, Whyte and Parsons in being out for the season.
Howell was disappointed by the lack of any points from Easter, saying he had no arguments with the 2-0 scoreline at Enfield but felt his team should have got at least a point against Lewes.
“I think we could have played Lewes ten times this season and not beaten them. They’ve had the better of us this season but if Jason and Terry had taken their chances we could have won 4-2 on Monday. It was one of those days in front of goal.
“We were dominant in the first half and played well enough after going two down, but we conceded two poor goals in three minutes and you can’t do that.”