Rocks ready to go as return for pre-season edges ever closer

Bognor boss Jamie Howell believes his side are ready to go as a return for pre-season edges closer.

Friday, 24th June 2016, 9:00 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 1:39 am
Bognor boss Jamie Howell

After a flying campaign last time out, Rocks return for their first session back following the summer break on Friday, July 1.

The Ryman League Premier outfit achieved a second-placed league finish last season before losing out in the play-off semi-finals, as well as reaching the FA Trophy final four.

But following that fine campaign, it has been a turbulent summer. Forwards Jason Prior and Alfie Rutherford moved to rivals Havant & Waterlooville, Craig Robson joined Dagenham & Redbridge and Stuart Green signed for Winchester City.

Howell was quick to replace those departures, though, by bringing back both Darren Budd and James Fraser from Burgess Hill, while former Brighton & Hove Albion youth talent Jimmy Muitt has joined from Lewes.

Despite the departures, Howell is hopeful his new-look side will now begin to take shape and said: “It’s been one of the busiest summers I have been involved in.

“With so many players leaving and a few coming in, I haven’t really stopped.

“We had such a good season last year and maybe that put a few in the shop window and they’ve decided to move on.

“Obviously, with the comings and goings I’m a little worried what that could do to the squad but I’m confident we’ll be able to build momentum as the new season draws closer.”

Rocks’ pre-season programme kicks off with a trip to Chichester City on July 18, while they also face Portsmouth, Gosport Borough, Pagham and Horsham before the curtain comes down for action in the Ryman League Premier.

Howell admits their Nyewood Lane encounter with Paul Cook’s League 2 Pompey on July 27 will be the highlight but is also pleased with the variety of their pre-season opponents.

He added: “It’s always nice to face Portsmouth.

“It’s good for the fans, the team and myself. Lots of people from the Bognor and Chichester area follow them so it’s a chance to see Pompey in action.

“For me and my team, we can test ourselves against League 2 opposition.

“We’ve got a nice mix in our other friendlies as well this season. I know Miles Rutherford really well at Chichester City and the club has a good relationship with Pagham.

“We usually play Havant & Waterlooville and Worthing but they are in our league next season, so it’s nice to add Horsham, as well as Gosport Borough.”

As the season gets closer, Howell wants to try to strengthen his squad further but is in no rush at present to bring in new recruits.

He said: “I’d still like to try and add a couple more players but at this minute nothing is close.

“Losing Jason (Prior) was a major blow as he scored 40 goals last season. Someone like him will be tricky to replace but it gives Ollie Pearce and Jimmy (Muitt) the chance to step up and try to fill that void left.

“If I could add a couple more in the next few weeks that would be great but if not, I’m happy to look around and make sure we identify the right type of player.”

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