JAMIE HOWELL has declared himself happy with progress on shaping the Rocks squad for the new season.
Only one new face – defender Sami El-Abd – has joined since the end of the 2014-15 campaign but Howell has convinced the bulk of last season’s squad to stay for a new assault on promotion.
He expects to make another three new signings and will welcome back an old fans’ favourite – Dan Beck – for pre-season training.
One big breakthough came on Tuesday night when centre-half Craig Robson committed to the club for another year. Howell had feared losing the key man said he was delighted Robson was staying.
As well as Robson, players who have signed or said they are coming back for 2015-16 are utility man Harvey Whyte, full-back Daryl Wollers, defenders Dan Sackman and James Crane, midfield men Doug Tuck and Jake Thomson and forwards Stuart Green, Alex Parsons and Terry Dodd.
In the balance is midfield man Charlie Oatway, who is continuing to suffer from knee problems which severely affected his first full season at Nyewood Lane.
The club are also unsure if Ollie Pearce will be back. He is hoping to secure trials at professional clubs – having already had one at League Two side Cambridge United – and Howell admits he may need to replace the former Rocks youth striker.
Beck, who starred in midfield and up front in two spells for the Rocks, plans to join in with pre-season training but Howell said it was too early to predict whether he would play a part in the season ahead.
The manager admitted it had been quiet on the signings front but said he was content with progress.
“We’ve been busy bees and a lot of the work has been in ensuring we didn’t lose too many players, like we did for various reasons a year ago,” he told the Observer.
Craig is a big signing and I’m delighted he’s staying. He has the ability to play at a higher level and wanted to know that we as a club had that ambition too.Jamie Howell
“Craig is a big signing and I’m delighted he’s staying. He has the ability to play at a higher level and wanted to know that we as a club had that ambition too. We have and he is happy to stay.
“Being able to play him alongside Sami El-Abd is massive. That partnership will give us a physical strength I think we’ve been lacking. We also have Dan Sackman and Daryl Wollers who can play in the middle of defence and will have big parts to play, I’m sure.”
Howell said it was heartening to see many of last year’s team returning and it would be great to have Beck at the club.
“He’s not really played much football since he left us a couple of years ago, but he called me and said he’d missed it, and asked if he could come in for training.
“What will happen beyond that we don’t know – we will see how he gets on and take it from there. But he loves the club and is a popular figure. He’s the right type of person to have around the place.”
The Rocks’ search for a goalkeeper continues following Chris Winterton’s departure. Howell said there were irons in the fire and added: “We may take a young lad from one of the pro clubs.”
The Rocks expect to have a good link with Pompey next season, borrowing academy players when required, and Howell plans to have about half-a-dozen of last year’s championship-winning Bognor youth team in and around the first-team squad.
A link with Pagham will see those young players get experience of senior men’s football in the top flight of the Sussex League.
The Rocks return to pre-season training on Monday, June 29, with the first friendly at home to Gosport a fortnight later.
A couple of changes have been made to Bognor’s schedule of pre-season friendlies.
There are new dates for the games with Moneyfields and Havant, and the latter of those matches will now be at West Leigh Park, not Nyewood Lane.
Programme: Mon Jul 13 Gosport Borough (home) (7.45pm); Fri Jul 17 Pompey (home) (7.30); Mon Jul 20 Pagham (away) (7.45pm); Wed Jul 22 Moneyfields (away) (7.45); Mon Jul 27 Worthing (away) (7.45); Wed Jul 29 Havant & Waterlooville (away) (7.45).
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