THE ROCKS are back – and so, importantly, is Jason Prior.
Manager Jamie Howell finally got his man late last Thursday night – and heralded the striker’s signing as a significant piece of the jigsaw he is piecing together with the aim of a serious promotion push.
Prior spent much of last season on loan at Nyewood Lane but it was long thought a permanent deal for him to return was unlikely. But once Margate made it clear they were content to let him go following promotion to Conference South, Bognor were determined to make this his next port of call.
Prior has scored a staggering 108 goals in 154 appearances for Bognor since first joining them in 2009.
In a move that will delight management and fans alike at Nyewood Lane, the striker has joined on a year’s contract, ending his time with Margate.
Prior has been a big crowd favourite and a talisman for the Rocks since making his Bognor debut in 2009 and has scored more than 100 goals in different spells with the club – the latest bering loan deals which saw him play for them for most of last season.
Prior was part of a healthy-sized group of players who reported back for the first pre-season training session on Monday night. Also there was former Nyewood Lane favourite Dan Beck, who looked fit and ready to push for a place in Howell’s plans.
Manager Jamie Howell said: “I’m absolutely delighted Jason’s joining us. We all know what he’s capable of and it’s a big boost for us.
“We’ve been working very hard behind the scenes to put a squad together who can really challenge this season.
“We stagnated a little last year and weren’t happy to finish up in lower mid-table. We didn’t want another season like that and Jack (Pearce) has been very supportive in put us in a position where we could sign Jason.
“We are not spending money we haven’t got but I think it’s fair to say we are stretching the budget to bring players in of his quality.”
Prior’s signing comes on top of ex-Whitehawk centre-half Sami El-Abd joining, and fellow central defender Craig Robson committing to another year with the Rocks when it looked like they might lose him.
The club still need to find a new goalkeeper but Howell is pleased with how the squad is coming together.
He said: “Our aim is to have a good pre-season and be more than ready with our first-choice team for the first game, which hasn’t been the case for the past couple of seasons.
“If we can get 600 fans or more in for our first couple of home games and get a good start, it would be fantastic.”
Secretary Simon Cook said of Prior: “He was in a position to talk to other clubs having formally terminated his contract at Margate FC.
“A number of other clubs were interested in him, including at least one at a higher level, but I am sure all Rocks fans will be delighted Jamie has persuaded him he will be better continuing his career at Nyewood Lane.”
Coach Darin Killpartrick led Monday’s training and was delighted with the fitness levels and attitude on show.
“It was a very good session and we have started to integrate a few from the under-18s into the first-team environment.
“Dan Beck looks in good shape. If it works out for him, he could be a valuable member of the squad. He’s such a good players technically and the fans love him.
“Our first priority this year is to be the fittest team in the league. We are lucky that we already have a group of player who know how we want to play, so the next step is to go up a gear fitness-wise. We have a strong backroom team who will try to make that happen.”
Killpartrick is delighted to se Prior back on board, adding: “He’s one of the most coachable players we’ve had to Bognor – a real role model for any young centre-forward.”
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