Defender gives Rocks a big boost

Sami El-Abd receives the 2015-16 Chairman's Cup from Sarah Warwick of the Rocks' supporters' club / Picture by Tim Hale
Sami El-Abd receives the 2015-16 Chairman's Cup from Sarah Warwick of the Rocks' supporters' club / Picture by Tim Hale
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Sami El-Abd is the latest player to tell the Rocks he’s staying.

The big centre-half, one of their best performers last season, has agreed in principle to be part of the club’s 2016-17 bid for glory.

He’s been excellent for us and has given us a steel and a presence we’ve probably not had since Ben Andrews was here.

Jamie Howell

It comes after James Crane, Harvey Whyte, Dan Beck and Doug Tuck either signed or indicated their intention to do so.

El-Abd’s stance is a big boost to Rocks fans who have seen another central defender, Craig Robson, move to Dagenham and Redbridge and strike pair Jason Prior and Alfie Rutherford sign for Havant & Waterlooville.

Midfielder Stuart Green is also moving on while the future of keeper Grant Smith remains up in the air.

Rocks manager Jamie Howell said: “Sami has said he will come back, which is fantastic news. He’s a popular player and was in the league’s team of the year – and rightly so.

“He’s been excellent for us and has given us a steel and a presence we’ve probably not had since Ben Andrews was here. In tough games where you need players who will stand up and be counted, he’s the perfect man to have.”

Howell also revealed winger Alex Parsons was keen to be involved again next season – although his modelling career has taken off and that could yet affect his availability.

Keeper Smith remains a ‘possible’ for next season and defender Chad Field, who the Rocks had on loan from Pompey for the year, may be one Bognor will look to recruit again if trials elsewhere don’t come off.

Meanwhile, Bognor will welcome promising young Chichester City duo Jimmy Wild and Jamie Horncastle for pre-season training. They have high hopes for the striker and defender and want to test whether they could be a part of the new Ryman premier campaign.

One ex-Rock who won’t be back at Nyewood Lane despite many hoping he would return is midfielder Kane Wills, who has opted to join Worthing – themselves in the Ryman premier for 16-17 – after his release by Margate.

Howell said: “We’d have liked Kane to come back - he’s a player we know well and respect. But he’s decided a move to Worthing is best for him and we can live with that.”

Wills admitted he’d considered a Bognor return and added: “It was a hard decision. Bognor came in and do you go and be loyal to them or do you take a step into the unknown and take a fresh challenge?

“In the end, I just brought into everything that (Worthing bosses) Gary (Elphick) and Jon (Meeney) have done.

On going back to Bognor with Worthing, Wills said: “I’ll expect a few boos, I didn’t get that last time I went back but maybe I’ll get a few boos this time now I’m playing for their local rivals.

“It will be a bit weird going back there but I left on very good terms and they’ll maybe understand the reasons I have for coming here at this time. There’s no hard feelings to them.”

Bognor are also in the market for new recruits, with a centre-forward and centre-half high on their shopping list.

For Rocks coach Darin Killpartrick, the recent departures mean he will have some new faces in the squad to work with and he is relishing it.

“It’s a great challenge. It’s a big part of what we do at Bognor – bringing in keen young players, getting them to play our way and developing them,” Killpartrick said.

“Changes in the squad will only drive me harder to get our team doing the right things.”

Meanwhile, the Rocks’ list of friendlies is growing.

In addition to games already announced at home to Pompey (Weds July 27) and away to Pagham (Fri July 29), Bognor are scheduled to visit Chichester City (Mon July 18), Gosport (Sat July 23) and Horsham (Thur Aug 4).

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