Gary Charman says keeping hold of coach Darin Killpartrick and the majority of last season’s squad has been massive in helping the Rocks prepare for life in National League South.
It’s been a rather chaotic summer at Nyewood Lane with a two-month search for a new boss seeing Sami El-Abd appointed player-boss and El-Abd having to pull out of the role after 12 days because of worries over him balancing it with his full-time job.
But Charman – who will continue playing but will also help general manager Jack Pearce and coach Killpartrick run the team – says the trio are looking forward to making it work.
And Killpartrick says the important thing is retaining the team spirit that carried the club to promotion from the Ryman premier last season while integrating a few new faces into the squad.
Charman said he was heartened by the squad hitting the ground runing in their first friendly, winning impressibly 4-0 at worthing on Saturday, and says the club are on course to have a competitive team by the time the National South season starts in 23 days’ time.
Their next test will be tougher – the Rocks have managed to rearrange their big friendly at home to Pompey, who will now visit this Saturday with a full squad for a 1.30pm kick-off.
Charman said: “I was player-manager for about 16 months at Horsham so I’m used to this side of a football club. Sami had been keen for me to be involved as an assistant and although his role has now fallen through, which is a real shame for him, I’ve had a quick conversation with Jack and the idea is I will still be involved.
“Jack, Dabba and I have a fair bit of experience between us and although it’s an unusual set-up, there’s no reason it can’t work. It’s a bit of a venture into the unknown but we’re looking forward to it.
“We have a lot of players who were already at the club who are National South standard or higher and it’s excellent that we still have them.
“And although Jamie Howell was a big loss when he went to Eastbourne, at least we didn’t lose Dabba too. That would have left us huge shoes to fill.
“We have a lot of the people we had in doing so well last season and that’s a good starting point.”
The win at Worthing saw potential new recruits get game time – including goalkeeper Callum Stanton (ex-Bournemouth), midfielder Joe lee (ex-Yeovil), attacker Pat Suraci (ex-Gosport) and midfielder Tommy Scutt (ex-Pompey).
Full-back Calvin Davies featured at Worthing and may yet stay with the Rocks if Football league trials don’t work out, while former Chichester midfielder Tommy Block is another being introduced to first-team duties.
Rocks summer signing Corey Heath, a tall centre-half, featured against his old side at Woodside Road and looks to be one of four centre-halves fighting for two spots alongside Charman, El-Abd and Chad Field.
Last season’s keeper Dan Lincoln is another who could return to Bognor if hopes of a move higher up the pyramid don’t work out.
Charman said: “We’ve got a good squad shaping up but need one or two more. We played extremely well at Worthing – as first games go, you couldn’t have asked for better. Training has been going well and the players are looking fit.
“We’ve been getting between 20 and 25 at training and the attitude and work-rate has been very good.
“At Worthing not one player played poorly and there were some stand-out performances. Pompey will be a very different test but we aim to give them a good game.”
Coach Killpartrick expects largely to be carrying on with the role he already had and said: “We have the foundations in place, now we just need to keep building. Jack and I have worked hard all summer to make sure players have stayed – now we need to add one or two.
“We looked hungry and fit at Worthing but Saturday will show us how fit we are. It’s all about keeping the team together and getting them playing attractive football.”
POMPEY IN TOWN... AFTER ALL
Pompey visit Nyewood Lane on Saturday (1.30pm) – weeks after the game looked lost for this year.
The Rocks had called off this year’s fixture because the Blues planned to send a youth team with only one or two senior players. But Pompey needed new opponents this Saturday after calling off their visit to Eastleigh over pitch worries – and Bognor is the new destination.
It’s pay on the day (£10 adults, £5 juniors) and fans are advised to arrive early. It’s on-street parking only – turnstiles open about 11.30.
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