Jason Prior says he made the decision to leave Bognor ‘with heavy heart’ – and rejected claims it was a sideways move.
The Rocks captain and top scorer is switching to Westleigh Park after Bognor missed out by a whisker on promotion to National League South.
Rocks fans have reacted with a mixture of acceptance it was bound to happen and disappointment the Nyewood Lane talisman has gone to a club who will be a Ryman premier-division rival for Bognor next season.
Prior will get a significant pay increae moving to Lee Bradbury’s team and believes they won’t be in the Ryman League beyond one season.
He said: “It was a difficult decision to leave Bognor. Everyone knows how fond I am of the club – I’ve enjoyed my football there and I’m leaving with heavy heart. But personally I am happy I have made the right decision.
“I’ve spoken to the Hawks chairman and he wants to win this league, and with the players we have and some more to be added, there’s no reason we can’t. He is confident and feels promotion is the minimum requirement.
“Some people have questioned why I haven’t gone to a club in a higher division but for me this is a sideways move but one that will take me forward.”
Prior said he had decided before the Rocks’ season ended in disappointment that if they didn’t make it up to National South themselves, he would probably move on.
He also revealed he almost joined Havant two years ago, opting for Dartford instead.
The Rocks have also lost centre-half Craig Robson, who has moved to National League premier outfit Dagenham & Redbridge, just relegated from League Two. But Bognor boss Jamie Howell is confident of keeping most of his other players together.
Prior, who scored 153 goals in 217 Rocks appearances, paid tribute to Howell and his Rocks right-hand man Darin Killpatrick for the way they had helped him develop his game in the spells he’d had at Bognor. “When I went there from Moneyfields I started out as someone who was just being chucked up front. I got to learn a lot from great coaches.
“I’ll miss the other players and the fans. It was a great dressing room - last year it was one of the best I have known for team spirit. I hope to stay in touch with them.
“And the fans really came into their own last season. There were some days and some cold Tuesday nights when their support was worth points to us.”
Prior, like pretty much all parties at Nyewood Lane, will look forward with keen anticipation to the two league games between the sides next season. They have not been in the same division since Bognor were relegated from Conference South in 2009.
“I hope I’ll get a good reception from the Bognor fans but you never know!” he said. “Hopefully they appreciate the service I have given the club.
“And they’ll be difficult games because I’m sure Bognor will do well again next season. Jamie and Dabba are well-versed in rebuilding and will be relishing it.”
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