Rocks’ bitter divisions need to end

Ibra Sekajja tries to force a Rocks breakthrough at Weston / Picture by Tommy McMillan
Ibra Sekajja tries to force a Rocks breakthrough at Weston / Picture by Tommy McMillan

Rocks fans, players and staff have been urged to pull together after unpleasant scenes at their latest defeat – and are being told the misery of this season can make the club stronger.

A number of fans who were at Weston-super-Mare on Saturday vented their frustrations at poor results on players and management – and when one of the coaching staff attempted to discuss issues with supporters afterwards, he was not well received.

But leading figures at the club say it is time for the arguments to cease and the rebuilding of relations and and the club’s fortunes to begin.

The Rocks have won only two league games since mid-August and are now just one point off bottom place in National League South, with relegation looking almost certain.

They go into Good Friday’s home clash with Chelmsford (3pm) 13 points off safety with only eight games to play.

Supporters’ club chairman Ian Guppy was moved to speak out after seeing fans and staff at loggerheads at Weston.

In a message to fans, Guppy said: “We all want the same thing for Bognor Regis Town FC.

“This season has been worse than any since I started watching Bognor in 1994-95 and it seems worse than the season with the fire and relegation.

“I have never seen such a strange atmosphere at games, and I feel Saturday at Weston was the tipping point. I have had personal messages from fans who were in attendance saying Saturday was one of the ‘ugliest things they have ever seen’ with all parties at the club being criticised, not just the fans.

“I spoke at length with Jack (Pearce, manager) on Sunday and we are both in agreement this cannot continue – but I must stress that all parties need to take accountability and responsibility for this as throughout the season many mistakes have been made, and the reactions at times has caused a lot of upset.

“Drawing a line in the sand and forgetting is hard at times but I feel a line needs to be drawn for the sake of all at the club – players, management, fans and officials.

“We are all involved with Bognor Regis Town FC for the same reason, because we love the club and want the club to do well. The current league plight hurts us all in the same manner and as fans we are 100 per cent right to vent our concerns or frustrations.”

Guppy added: “This is a great club, we should all be proud of how we conduct ourselves and should take immense pride in how we have performed over the past few seasons to reach where we are today.

“One season of disappointment after numerous successes in a club’s whole history is not something to be down about. It hurts today – really hurts – but in years to come this season could help to shape our future... if lessons are learnt.

“As harsh as it sounds now, this experience has the opportunity to galvanise the club but all parties must want this to happen.”

Pearce agreed a club could not make progress if there were ‘different factions’ within it.

He told the Observer he took full responsibility for results and the league position and repeated his view that all his players were good enough to play in a National South team who were not batling relegation, but it was the balance of the squad which was wrong.

He maintained that with the striker and goalscoring midfielder that finance and georgraphy had prevented them recruiting, they would be cin mid-table.

Pearce said: “One thing I can promise supporters is that if we are relegated, we will still be financially sound – when many clubs relegated from National South have not been, having overspent to no avail. We will still be able to make ground improvements that would be needed if we were to go back up.”

He also said he had not accepted relegation was a certainty and added: “All the time fans are turning up paying hard-earned money to watch us, we have an obligation to work our socks off to try to win games, and that’s what we will do in every game.”

Club secretary Simon Cook said on the fans’ messageboard: “Let’s recognise that we are all on the same side trying to achieve the same thing – success on the pitch. This season has not been good, but getting into online arguing is not the way forward.

“If any supporter feels the need, please come and see me at our match against Chelmsford City and I will happily arrange a meeting with Jack or Dabba.

“The club are already heavily involved in planning for next season, on and off the pitch, and when appropriate we will be updating supporters with what is happening.”

The club have signeed 21-year-old Barnet striker Justin Amaluzor on loan for the rest of the season and can still call on Brighton loan striker Stefan Ljubicic.

Midfielder Tommy Block is an injury doubt for Easter – when the Rocks follow Friday’s game with a visit to Jamie Howell’s Eastbourne Borough on Monday – but there are no other new injury worries.

The defeat at Weston was the Rocks’ third successive 1-0 away loss and saw a familiar tale of plenty of possession but no goals. Bognor’s display did draw praise from the Weston manager.

Rocks coach Darin Killpartrick said: “One or two of our performances have not been acceptable, but Saturday’s was not in that category.”

STEVE BONE