Jason Prior was today beginning life in the Football League – with the prospect of the Rocks earning a tidy sum if he makes a success of it.
Less than a week after his Newcastle adventure came to an end, the Rocks’ top scorer has joined League Two side AFC Wimbledon on a two-and-a-half year deal.
The Rocks will net more than the £12,500 they’d have got if his proposed move to Conference South club Eastleigh had happened at the start of January. It is thought the fee is around £16,000 although the Rocks have not confirmed this.
But they have included a sell-on clause in the deal which could net them bigger money if Prior shines in the league and gets snapped up by a club higher up the ladder.
The Rocks management and fans – who have long been resigned to losing the man who scored 95 goals in 126 appearances for the club – are wishing Prior well and backing him to be a success with Wimbledon.
Prior will go straight into the squad for Saturday’s home game with Aldershot.
Dons boss Terry Brown told fans on his club’s website: “Having watched Jason on four different occasions when he scored in every game, I can assure you we have brought a prolific goalscorer into the club.
“Jason is very powerful in the air, a good hold-up player and the most important box he ticked was his ability to take chances in and around the box as his record of nearly 100 goals in about 120 games shows.
“I am really pleased that he chose us ahead of other Football League clubs and barring injury he will go straight into the squad on Saturday.”
The south London outfit have agreed to play a friendly at Nyewood Lane in the summer, which, with their large travelling support, could mean another decent payday for the Rocks.
Although the two clubs now play four divisions apart, it’s only three seasons ago that they met in Conference South. In January 2009 the Dons brought more than 1,000 fans to Bognor on their way to promotion.
Rocks general manager Jack Pearce said the money from the sale would help pay off debts, improve facilities at Nyewood Lane – and help the bosses fund a new striker who has the unenviable task of filling Prior’s boots.
The club have allowed Allan Tait to return to Kingstonian after just two appearances and now want to sign a striker to replace Prior with a view to the longer-term.
In the meantime Terry Dodd, Ashley Robinson and Steve Harper will share striking duties.
Pearce said: “We agreed terms with AFC Wimbledon and we wish Jason well.”
Howell said: “Of course we’re sorry to see Jason go but we knew it was going to happen at some point.
“Our priority now is to bring in another striker. We have our eye on a couple but it’s not easy to find someone who you can guarantee will get you goals.”
Prior joined the Rocks in 2009 from Wessex League Moneyfields and he soon became a fans’ favourite.
It was last season that he started to make others sit up and take notice, scoring more than 40 goals – including three hat-tricks in ten days - as he so nearly fired the team to the Ryman one south title.
It was a different story this season, with 28 goals coming in just 27 starts and four appearances from the bench. Despite having played his last game for the Rocks more than three weeks ago, he is still nine goals clear of his closest rival in the Ryman one south golden-boot race.
Prior’s Newcastle trial got off to a great start when he scored in a reserve game against Wigan but his chance of a second game was ended by injury. He used his Twitter account to thank everyone who had wished him well during his time on Tyneside.