Block's move to Hibernian is finalised - but it could add to Bognor's struggles
The Rocks wished teenage midfielder Tommy Block the best of luck as his move to Hibernian was finalised '“ but warned that his departure would add to the growing strain on the club's playing resources.
Injuries are piling up and bosses are trying to bring in new faces, but they have warned that the next month will be a severe test of the squad – and the whole club.
They have tied up a loan deal for 17-year-old midfielder Drew Richardson with Saturday's trip to face arch rivals Worthing in mind.
Block's move to the Edinburgh giants for an undisclosed fee was finalised on Thursday morning, with manager Jack Pearce praising the youngster's work ethic and attitude and wishing him well north of the border.
But in addition to losing Block, the Rocks have now lost winger Mason Walsh to a calf injury that could keep him on the sidelines for a few weeks, when he will have right-back Calvin Davies and centre-halves Corey Heath and Keaton Wood for company as they get over long-term knee and ankle problems.
For last Saturday’s 4-1 defeat at Kingstonian, Bognor were able to name only two substitutes – and it could be a similar scenario this weekend as they make the short trip to Worthing.
Fans were unhappy with the performance against Ks and are disgruntled at a run of form that has left the flying start to the season feeling like a distant memory.
Coach Robbie Blake said: “We were miles off (against Ks) and I’m really sorry for the supporters who came to watch us in the pouring rain; they’re a credit and I’d ask them to please stick with us.
“They’ve seen early on in the season that we’re a good side and we will come good again. We understand the frustration but we need unity. I can guarantee you we will get it right, I am more determined than anyone to do that.
“Jack and I know we have a few things wrong and we will address them. Yes, we have personnel out and we need a few players in and when we do that, there is long enough left in the season for us to turn it round.”
Pearce said he believed the players were still 100 per cent committed to the cause but repeated his assertion that any club of Bognor’s size would struggle to cope with the number of injuries picked up in a short time.
They have boosted their central defensive options by re-signing Ed Sanders, who has had time at Gosport and Whitehawk since a successful spell at Nyewood Lane a couple of seasons ago. Now Richardson's arrival will swell the ranks further, but most feel some more experience is needed to give the young squad a confidence boost.
Sanders and Gary Charman, who missed the trip to Kingston, are both available for the visit to Woodside Road but Pearce said losing Walsh to a pulled calf muscle a week after full-back Davies succumbed to a knee injury, which is now awaiting full diagnosis, was another blow.
It means bosses have mixed feelings over Block’s move to Hibs, which comes after the 18-year-old schemer impressed in two trials with the Easter Road club.
Pearce said: “One of the problems we have with the model we follow is that we give young players who are just below the radar a chance to play at a good level and if they impress, as Tommy has, they can get picked up by a club higher up the pyramid. That’s where we are in the food chain.
“I hear what fans say when they say we need another experienced midfield player. But where is that player? We will have a fee from Hibs when Tommy goes and we’re not shy of spending money on the squad, but in my experience, bringing in a player from further afield on bigger money doesn’t often end well.
“Tommy’s success shows what playing for Bognor can do for a young player and we have to hope it will lead to others wanting to play for us.”
Pearce said he was not worried about the trip to Worthing, despite the team’s recent struggle for results. Worthing themselves have struggled for form of late and have slipped to seventh after a fine start to their own campaign, though they do have games in hand over the top teams.
The Rocks supremo hopes to have Pompey pair Dan Smith and Brad Lethbridge available up front – Lethbridge having scored and impressed in the Pompey academy’s unlucky 3-2 defeat at Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday night.
“I never worry about going into a game when I know the players will give their best efforts and not just go through the motions,” Pearce added.
“It was tough at Kingstonian. They are a top team who have had a massive cash injection and have signed nine or ten players since we last played them. I don’t think we weren’t trying, but the reality is that if you are in a team that keeps losing players to injury and then starts to let in goals, your head might drop.
“Worthing will obviously be another difficult game – they’re going well. And the games after that don’t get any easier. It is a testing month or so ahead of us and I’m not going to pretend otherwise.”