Jason Prior has quit Bognor to join their Ryman premier rivals Havant and Waterlooville – days after Rocks centre-half Craig Robson announced he was off to National League premier side Dagenham and Redbridge.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for Rocks fans – a number of last season’s team have told manager Jamie Howell they want to play for the club again next term.
After 217 appearances in a Bognor shirt and 153 goals, Prior is moving on – a big disappointment for fans, with some saying they are particularly upset he will be playing for one of the Rocks’ league rivals.
Supporters who were also upset to see consistent performer Robson go to the Daggers – as revealed as www.bognor.co.uk on Saturday morning – are now hoping other key players don’t move on.
And Howell had good news on that front when he spoke to the Observer yesterday after Prior’s departure was confirmed.
* Defender James Crane had agreed in principle to sign and utility man Harvey Whyte had committed to another Rocks season.
* Dan Beck, Alex Parsons and Gary Charman were staying with Bognor, with the club hopeful Doug Tuck and Alfie Rutherford will still be with them next season.
* Keeper Grant Smith had said he would be happy to stay at the Lane if one or two options he was considering didn’t work out.
* An answer from Sami El-Abd and Ollie Pearce on the offer of a new Nyewood Lane deal was awaited
The future of Stuart Green is unclear and Howell has numerous irons in the fire in the hunt for new players.
He confirmed an interest in getting midfielder Kane Wills back to Bognor following his release by Margate. But it is understood Wills is also considering offers from clubs as high as National premier level, including Maidstone, promoted in the National League South play-offs last weekend.
Howell said: “Although I’m disappointed to lose people of Jason and Craig’s calibre, the important thing is to keep the nucleus of the team and it looks like we will be able to do that.
“My focus now is building a squad that can compete for honours next season, and it’s not a total rebuild. We will be okay.”
Prior confirmed first to the Observer he was heading for Westleigh Park and said on Twitter: “Thanks to everyone at @rocks1883 for last season, especially Jamie, Dabba and the players. It was a pleasure as always. All the best.
“Looking forward to a new challenge next season @HavantWvilleFC – hopefully we can bounce straight back up!”
It means the two fixtures between the clubs, who have always had a strong rivalry, will be more keenly anticipated than ever.
And it means the Rocks management have to consider how best to replace a player who scored 45 goals as the Rocks enjoyed considerable success in the league, FA Cup and FA Trophy.
Pearce and Rutherford – provided they stay – are likely to be asked to step up to the plate but it seems highly likely another striker will be added to the ranks as well.
Howell said: “We’re disappointed to lose one of our best players. He felt it was an offer too good to turn down. We thank Jason for being an excellent servant to Bognor.
“The same can be said of Craig – it’s a very good move for him going to Dagenham and Redbridge.”
Another player who could return to the Nye Camp next season is defender Chad Field. He and fellow Pompey youngster Snorre Nilsen have both been let go from Fratton Park but while Nilsen has returned to Norway, Field is having trials with pro clubs.
Howell said: “If things don’t work out for Chad, we’d be interested in having him with us for another year.”
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