JAMIE HOWELL spoke of his delight at landing a ‘real character’ in Sami El-Abd – and revealed his next target was a replacement for goalkeeper Chris Winterton.
The former Whitehawk and Peacehaven centre-half has become the first player to join the Rocks as they try to build a powerful squad who can push for promotion in 2015-16.
The 27-year-old, who was on Brighton’s books until he was 16, played for Crawley, Team Bath, Hayes & Yeading, Lewes and Chelmsford before impressing in a three-year spell at Whitehawk. He moved to Peacehaven & Telscombe last season.
Bognor boss Howell hope he and Craig Robson could form a formidable partnership at the heart of the defence next season.
He said: “Sami is someone I’ve had my eye on for a long time. He’s an experienced player – strong, aggressive and a leader – who knows what it’s all about at this level and above.
“If we can field Sami and Craig together, and have Dan Sackman and Daryl Wollers who can play at centre-half too, that makes it a strong part of the squad, stronger than it has been of late.
Sami is someone I’ve had my eye on for a long time. He’s an experienced player – strong, aggressive and a leader – who knows what it’s all about at this level and above.Jamie Howell
“Sami will bring leadership qualities and, without wanting to put too much pressure on him, I see his signing as similar to those of the likes Ben Andrews and Stuart Axten. He’ll be a real presence.”
Howell is well into the task of finding other new signings – one of which will need to be a keeper after Winterton’s exit was announced.
The former Whitehawk shot-stopper joined Bognor a year ago.
Howell said: “We’ve got options we’re looking into regarding a keeper and are confident something will come off. We’re also looking for another striker and probably another wide player.”
The striker hunt would be solved if Jason Prior were to become available – and willing to return to Bognor – following Margate’s promotion to Conference South, while it’s the latest knee injury blow suffered by Ben Johnson – reported a fortnight ago – that’s got Howell looking at wingers.
He has also pledged to bring a number of last season’s successful youth-team players into the first-team environment, but asked supporters not to expect too much too soon from any of them.
Defenders Dale Hayes and Jordan Warren, midfielder Lloyd Rowlatt and striker Callum Overton are among the youngsters Howell is keen to look at in the first team. But he said: “They’re not, in all likelihood, going to get into the first team and stay there –at least not yet.
“We need to see what they can do at that level and bring them on at a sensible speed.”
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