JAMIE HOWELL has hailed the ‘enormous’ part Jason Prior played in saving the Rocks’ season – and is not ruling out the possibility of the fans’ favourite rturning to Bognor next season.
The striker has played his last game for Bognor – at least for now – and will be an intersted spectator at Nyewood Lane on Saturday, when the Rocks end their campaign by hosting his parent club, promotion-seeking Margate.
When Prior arrived for the first of two loan spells, the Rocks were struggling to find a win, especially at hom. His impact was immediate as he started scoring goals and helping others in the team find form.
Although the Rocks have tailed off in the past few weeks, for a long time it looked like they might claim a play-off place and Howell said that without Prior’s contribution, the season could well have turned into one long struggle.
“Jason’s been enormous for us this season, which in fairness we always thought he would be,” Howell said.
“His contribution was two-fold – there was obviously his goals and his hold-up play up front which brings other players into a game so well, but there was also the effect he had on other players.
“With Jason in the side, suddenly people like Stuart Green and Ollie Pearce blossomed and ended up having excellent seasons.
“You can’t help wonder what would have happened if we’d had Jason all season, but at least we had him for most of it.”
As to Prior’s future, the ball is in the court of Margate, where he is a contracted member of the squad.
Howell said: “We’re extremely grateful to them for the arrangement we have had this season. He’s their player, so it’s up to them.
“But if it does not work out for him there, I’d like to think this is a club that suits him – and he is a player who suits us – and we may see him back here.”
It’s a prospect that will delight fans as they look forward to next season, when the Rocks will want to put up more of a sustained challenge for promotion than they have this term.
Howell is determined to get a settled side together ready for the start of the 2015-16 campaign as opposed to having to spend the first couple of months tinkering and hunting for reinforcements.
Prior would be a big step towards achieving that if he could be tempted back, while talks with other senior players are continuing.
The Rocks will aim to end the current season on a high with a good performance against Margate –who are likely to have ex-Rock Kane Wills in midfield – after closing their away campaign with a 4-1 defeat at Wingate & Finchley.
They led 1-0 with 22 minutes to go – then collapsed, conceding four goals in 14 minutes.
Howell was disappointed by the end result but said the number of players who started despite not being 100 per cent fit was a factor.
“In a way it proved to me what I have long suspected – our strongest team is fine but we don’t have anywhere near enough strength in depth beneath,” he said.
“If a number of our key players get injured at the same time, as has happened, or too many are feeling their way back, we struggle.”
Meanwhile, Howell has been named by bookies as a 40/1 shot on the list of possible new Pompey managers following Andy Awford’s departure last week.
He said: “I’m pretty certain they’ll appoint someone with Football League experience but to be talked about in these circles is an excellent reflection on Bognor and on me.”
In other news, Kingstonian goalkeeper Rob Tolfrey has been banned for seven games and fined £375 after admitting bringing the game into disrepute for going into the crowd at the end of Bognor’s win at Kingsmeadow in Feburary and confronting a Rocks fan.