The Rocks are inching closer to finding their new manager – but have admitted it’s proving tough strengthening their squad.
A shortlist of candidates for the job of replacing Jamie Howell should be in place within a week, with an appointment hoped for soon after that.
Fans have been pushing for the new man to be put in place soon so planning for the new season in National League South can step up a gear.
General manager Jack Pearce is calm about the process and is continuing to talk to last season’s squad, with most committing to the club again for 2017-18.
Winger Alex Parsons and defender Chad Field are the latest to sign for another year, while striker Jimmy Wild is expected to remain.
Negotiations with key defender Sami El-Abd are likely to be finalised this week, while the future of keeper Dan Lincoln hangs in the balance.
As reported, Doug Tuck, Jimmy Muitt, James Crane, Gary Charman, Ollie Pearce and Harvey Whyte had already agreed before this week to stay at Nyewood Lane. Midfield duo James Fraser and Darren Budd have left for Worthing and Horsham respectively.
Club boss Pearce said the hunt for new players was continuing even before the new manager was appointed – but he said it was not easy.
“My impression is that it’s been pretty slow all round this summer – there’s not been a lot of movement,” he said.
“I can assure fans we have not missed out on anyone we’d like. No-one within our financial and geographical restraints has become available.”
Pearce said they were looking for a left-sided attacker, a more physical central striker, a goalscoring midfield man and possibly another holding midfielder.
Numerous names have been in the frame for the manager’s job, among them former Bognor players like David Wright, Stuart Tuck, Michael Birmingham and Miles Rutherford, plus other well-known local football figures including Mick Catlin and Shaun Wilkinson.
Coach Darin Killpartick is particularly pleased with the signing of 20-year-old centre-half Corey Heath, who can also play as a holding midfielder.
Heath came through Killpartrick’s Chichester College football academy and will be the fourth ‘product’ of the college to be in the squad for the new season – joining Ollie Pearce, Crane and Wild.
“I’ve been working to get the younger players like these committed to Bognor and I’m delighted with the way that side of things is shaping up.
“They’re all players I’ve known and worked with for a long time and as a result it gives you people in the squad who know how you want them to play and know what standards are expected.”
Killpartrick is looking forward to getting the squad back together in three weeks’ time for the start of pre-season, when he says there will be a major emphasis on fitness levels.
“Our character will be tested so much more in a higher division – it will be tough, totally different to the Ryman premier,” he said.
“Fitness will be the biggest priority of the season. Players will need to look after their bodies and there will be more emphasis on preparation for matches and recovery.
“We’ll be up against some teams who are virtually full-time and we’ll need to be one of the fittest teams in the league. We start pre-season in the last week of June and will train three times a week.”
Meanwhile, the Rocks’ friendly with Pompey has been brought forward a day – it will now take place on Tuesday, July 18.
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