Rocks Review: True cost of injury-hit season is revealed

Jack Pearce has spoken of the financial problems facing the Rocks
Jack Pearce has spoken of the financial problems facing the Rocks

The Rocks have pleaded with fans to stand by them during their difficult run of results - after revealing the shock cost of the injuries and loss of form that has plagued their season.

New figures given to the Observer show the club have shelled out a staggering £25,000 during this injury-hit season on operations, scans, external physio appointments and wages for contracted players out long-term.

And based on gate money and larger attendances the club were getting earlier in the season, they are another £10,000 down on expected gate income since the beginning of February alone.

The figures are put into sharp focus by the revelation that the crowd of 164 for Tuesday’s game with Leiston – the Rocks’ lowest league gate for a long time – left the club with a surplus of around £100 after VAT, electricity and officials’ expenses had been paid out of the cash income of £540.

General manager Jack Pearce said it had been an extrmely tough time financially and appealed to fans to keep supporting the club to enable them to continue playing at a decent level of non-league football.

He said he was excited by the number of young players emerging in the squad and promised every player and the backroom staff member was everything possible to ensure results picked up between now and the end of the campaign.

The Rocks’ woes have stemmed from a crippling run of injuries. Winger Ben Johnson, defenders Stuart Axten, Tim Bond and Ben Andrews – now retired – are just some of those who have had long spells out and numerous players have needed medical treatment which the club have had to pay for.

The knock-on effect of the injuries has seen the team run out of steam in their Ryman premier campaign, to the point where they have won only one of their past ten games. Crowd have fallen from 450-500 to their present level.

Pearce said: “People don’t realise the overheads we face week in, week out, and this season has been particularly bad for operations and scans and for covering the wages of players out injured.

“When attendances fall, it puts a major strain on us and a club at our level finds it difficult to cope.

“All I can say to fans is that we realise there are many factors that govern whether or not they come to games, but we need them when things are not going so well. We can promise them every penny that comes through the gate gets invested in the team.”

Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Leiston at least brought signs of hope, even if the cold weather and the lure of England on TV kept many away.

The Rocks played well enough to win, lacking only a killer instinct in front of goal, and there were bright displays from some of the younger players like Ollie Pearce and Harvey Whyte.

Manager Jamie Howell likened his team to a boxer with lovely technique, footwork and ring presence but with a powder-puff punch.

But he said: “The difference between us and that boxer is we can change. We have players who will come back into the team to make us stronger and we have young players learning all the time about what’s required.

“Tuesday was a small step forward and we need to build on it over the next few games.

“Matches come thick and fast now, which is a good thing, and we’re ready for the challenges they bring.”

The biggest test comes today (Good Friday) when the Rocks visit leaders Whitehawk. It’s the first of four Sussex derbies in nine days, with Lewes and Hastings’ Ryman League visits to Bognor on Easter Monday and the following Saturday sandwiching Wed-nesday’s Sussex Senior Cup semi-final with Hastings at Lancing.

The Rocks hope Dan Beck and Jon Marzetti – who missed Tuesday’s draw with sickness – will be available and may yet see the return of striker Dan Thompson, who has been on trial with Stoke. Forward Simon Woods is available at Whitehawk but is away after that.

Striker Terry Dodd and goalkeeper Craig Stoner are showing no ill effects of heavy knocks taken in the Leiston game.

Get first news of all the Rocks’ Easter games here on our new-look website