Rocks players won’t be hurried into ‘stay or go’ decisions

Darin Killpartrick and Jamie Howell present Dan Beck with the players' player of the year award / Picture by Tim Hale
Darin Killpartrick and Jamie Howell present Dan Beck with the players' player of the year award / Picture by Tim Hale
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Jamie Howell hopes Bognor fans will be patient as they wait to see if the squad that so nearly took the club to glory this season will stay together.

The manager has told his players he will not chase them for a couple of weeks to ask them if they are committing to Nyewood Lane for another season – because he says there is little point.

Howell says it is realistic to expect at least one or two of the Rocks’ star men to get offers from clubs higher up the non-league pyramid after a season in which the team beat seven sides from the National League divisions and gave others a good run for their money.

The Rocks are keen to keep the squad together for another bid for promotion and cup success in 2016-17 but know they will struggle to compete financially with many clubs who might have seen what their key players can do for them.

Howell does expect to ask players to start committing to the club in a fortnight or so – in case he needs to look elsewhere to fill key positions.

No current members of the squad have indicated any likelihood of leaving yet, but fans fear players like Jason Prior, Sami El-Abd, Craig Robson and Grant Smith could be targeted by rival teams.

I’d like to keep this great squad together but there’s no point trying to stop them even talking to clubs who may be interested in them. A bit of breathing space does no-one any harm.

Jamie Howell

Howell said: “We’re all taking a couple of weeks away from it and the players know that if they can get a move they want to make, that is good for them and they can do that. But otherwise we will be wanting them to stay with us to see what we can achieve next season.

“As a club we have to understand our position in the hierachy. We are not a club with a lot of money to spend and, like it or not, money is often a factor in determining which club a particular player will sign for.

“I’d like to keep this great squad together but there’s no point trying to stop them even talking to clubs who may be interested in them. A bit of breathing space does no-one any harm.

“If we were heavy-handed anf demanded a decision from them straight away, it could well backfire.”

Howell said if some players were offered deals at higher-placed clubs, it would be testament to what Bognor had achieved in the past year.

As well as finishing second only a point behind Ryman premier champions Hampton and Richmond, Bognor got through three rounds of the FA Cup and reached the semi-finals of the FA Trophy.

Along the way they beat National premier sides Altrincham and Torquay, National South teams Oxford City, Bath City, Maidstone and Sutton - the last of whom have won the title - plus National North outfit Lowestoft.

Howell said: “The general concensus seems to be that players are happy here – there is a good spirit.”

There’s no news yet on any pre-season friendlies or the prospect of the Rocks using loanees from the likes of Pompey or Brighton.

STEVE BONE

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