Rocks skipper Michael Birmingham is trying to take the pressure off his promotion-chasing team-mates by telling them: Relax – and start enjoying your football again.
Since the team went top of the league, they have started showing signs of nerves and have dropped points in three straight home games.
Stalwart Birmingham, who has had 16 years at the club, believes everyone from players and fans needs to calm down, forget worries over how their rivals are doing – and get back to enjoying themselves.
“This isn’t pressure – not real pressure,” he said. “Pressure’s what we had last season when we were in a relegation battle, and what the club have had in their fight to survive in recent years.
“This part of the season should be enjoyable and exciting for everyone and up until a few weeks ago it was. Everything was hunky-dory and no-one was talking about promotion.
“But now we’ve hit top spot there seems to be fear creeping in. People are worried about making mistakes and there’s pressure building. But it’s unnecessary.
“We need to get back to playing the Bognor way. And whatever happens will happen; whatever doesn’t, doesn’t.”
The Rocks went top of the table on February 1 by winning at Chipstead and have remained there since. And Birmingham doesn’t even feel their record since then of two wins and three draws amounts to anything to be downbeat about.
“We’ve been drawing at home but we’re still not losing games. We’ve got a really good squad this year but because we’ve set high standards, you could say we’ve become victims of our own success,” he said.
“The fans have been fantastic – following us home and away in terrific numbers and giving us great support. I hope they can see we’re going in the right direction and I think they can – they’ve not been getting on our backs when things haven’t been going so well.”
Birmingham praised managers Darin Killpartrick and Jamie Howell for taking the pressure off the players and encouraging them to keep playing their natural game.
“When we relax, we play terrific football and this is the proudest I’ve been as a Bognor captain. I’ve always got ten others in the team willing to give their all for the club.
“We need to remember that and we need to stop putting pressure on ourselves. We mustn’t panic.”
Birmingham (below) came off in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Corinthian Casuals at Nyewood Lane because of illness but is set to return for Saturday’s tough trip to Ramsgate.
And at training on Tuesday night, joint boss Howell said the players showed him they were aware of the factors that had seen them drop a few points and were determined to keep notching good results.
Howell said: “It’s about learning to deal with the pressure that being top can bring, and you can’t learn it overnight – only through experience.”
Howell expects a close game in Kent between sides who know each other well from their recent meeting at the Lane. He hopes to have a full squad to pick from.
He watched fringe trio Matt Wood, Phil Turner and Charlie Marshall play in Tuesday’s Pagham-Wick game but doesn’t expect too many changes on Saturday from the side who started last weekend.