Rocks want to keep squad together despite relegation

The Rocks at Concord - will the squad be kept together? Picture by Tommy McMillan
The Rocks at Concord - will the squad be kept together? Picture by Tommy McMillan

Jack Pearce says the Rocks want to keep the present squad together – because they believe they will be capable of making a strong challenge for Isthmian League honours next season.

Bognor are on course to finish bottom of National League South after their relegation was confirmed with a 3-2 home defeat to Hemel Hempstead on Saturday.

They also lost 2-1 at Concord Rangers on Tuesday night and now have just three games left to try to overhaul also-relegated Whitehawk so they don’t finish 24th. They go to Oxford City on Saturday then host Chelmsford on Tuesday and Dartford in the final match on April 28.

Looking beyond the end of this campaign, Pearce is confident the present squad can do well in the Bostik premier division.

But he also warned that wihtout major investment, the Rocks would struggle again if they were promoted back to National South.

There is no word yet on who will manage them next term. There has been talk of negotiations beginning with potential team bosses but Pearce said last year it was ‘doubtful’ but not impossible that he would still be the boss for the 2018-19 campaign.

In the final three games, Pearce is challenging his troops to play for pride and give the loyal fans something to cheer.

He said it was not the case that the players were now playing for their futures at Nyewood Lane. “I‘d take all of them near enough and give them a contract for next year,” he said.

“Our job is to have personal pride and remember people are going to work and spending their hard-earned money watching us. You have to get as many points as you can between now and the end of the season and give people something to cheer about.

“You need to have good players, enough of them. All I can hope we can keep as many as possible because I the team we have got there can do very well in the next level down.

“The big challenge is trying to keep those players together because some of the football they have produced is brilliant. That is hard to play.”

Bognor have brought the likes of midfield duo Tommy Block and Tommy Scutt into the first team in recent months and Pearce added: “We are still a very, very young team and that bodes well for the future of the club.”

He admitted everyone at the club was downbeat over relegation.

“People are disappointed but I’d be disappointed if players weren’t disappointed they’d been relegated,” he said.

“I don’t think there’s much difference between the top and the bottom (in National League South).

“We’ve been short of quality and we need to find as a club a way of increasing our revenue, or finding people who want to put money in like they do at other clubs, so we can get better players to play at this level.

“Otherwise whenever we bounce back, unless you’ve got the finance at this level to afford the players necessary to keep you there, we’ll always struggle – it’s as simple as that.”

Pearce admitted it needed ‘someone who loves the club or someone who wants to give the club lots and lots of money with no security’. And he added: There’s not a lot of people about who will do that, and I don’t blame them!”

He maintained his squad was not as bad as the league position suggested but he accepted the Rocks had given too many teams an early goal start, which he felt was largely down to individual errors.

The 2-1 loss at Concord on Tuesday was another case of the Rocks playing some decent football with no reward.

Pearce said: “I was quite delighted by the performance and I said to the players they should feel proud of some of the things they are trying to do. Some of our football and manipulation of the ball and movement is above this standard, but at the moment we’re not very good in the vital areas, the two penalty areas.”

He praised supporters who have stuck by the team and continued attending games, saying about those who went to Concord: “To come this far with the results we’ve been getting, full marks to them.”

STEVE BONE