Two to go – five to stay. That’s the running tally as Rocks boss Jack Pearce oversees who will make up the Rocks squad next season.
Long-serving full-back James Crane has moved to Worthing after a decade at Nyewood Lane while former captain Sami-El Abd has brought an end to a three-year spell with the Rocks.
The good news is that five players have agreed to sign for next season – defenders Calvin Davies, Keaton Wood and Chad Field, utility man Harvey Whyte and midfielder Tommy Scutt.
Crane, 28, was at the club as long ago as their last spell at Conference South level and became part of the fixtures and fittings at Nyewood Lane, playing a vital role in various promotion and play-off campaigns.
He works as a school teacher in Worthing, where he has had promotion, and has not had to wait long to get fixed up with a new club. He could play against Bognor next season. El-Abd’s departure will perhaps come as less of a surprise to fans but he is still another big-name loss. His partner has recently had a baby and it is believed he no longer wants to make the regular trips to Bognor from his home on the other side of Sussex.
Crane told the Observer: “I hadn’t been thinking about it for a while. I’ve been at Bognor a long time and seen a lot of changes. I was here in the old Conference South days and went through two relegations and then two promotions.
There’s others I’m desperate to keep and we have two or three other targets we’re working on.Jack Pearce
“My aim was always to stay as long as things were done the right way. I had strong coaching from Jamie (Howell) and Dabba (Killpartrick), and Jack (Pearce) has helped me a lot. But at this time I need a new challenge.
“I’ll never shut the door on Bognor, it’s been a big part of my life. If things were different in the future I’d be open to going back.
“I want to play at as high a level as I can but I think my home and work circumstances at the moment mean I’m looking at Bostik premier level.
“This was not an easy decision to make but I’ve got to think of myself, my wife and my baby.
“I can’t thank the fans, my team-mates and the management of the club enough for the support and opportunities I’ve had at Bognor. It’s a special club. I’ve had a lot of lovely messages from all sorts of people since announcing I was leaving.”
Manager Jack Pearce said the five who had agreed terms for next season were the only ones the club had made offers to at this stage.
He said: “There’s others I’m desperate to keep and we have two or three other targets we’re working on.”
It comes amid continuing pressure for Pearce to stand aside as team manager and appoint a new boss for the Bostik League premier-division campaign ahead.
He at least needs a new coach to replace Killpartrick and supporters are becoming increasingly concerned other clubs are appointing managers and coaches and signing players – they fear Bognor are getting left behind.
Pearce said there was no news on the managerial front – for now his priority was seeing which players would be in the squad for 2018-19. Rocks fans fear Crane and El-Abd won’t be the only members of last season’s squad who will quit the Lane.
They will be hoping the likes of keeper Dan Lincoln, midfielders Doug Tuck and Tommy Block and strikers Ollie Pearce and Jimmy Muitt.
It is thought other contenders to move on include forward Ibra Sekajja and midfield pair Richard Gilot and Ben Swallow.
Crane, meanwhile, said on Twitter: “I have loved it here. I have made so many friends and good memories ... I will miss you all. All the best, Craney.” He missed most of last season after dislocating his shoulder in a game against Gloucester in September. Fans raised money to pay for an operation that helped him recover.
Rocks supporters’ club chairman Ian Guppy said on the club’s messageboard: “He thanked everyone for their support with his operation and the funding for this and was sorry he could not repay that in a Rocks shirt next season.
“Craney was and is one of life’s good guys and I’m saddened he is leaving. I wish him all the best wherever his career takes him and cannot believe we won’t see him in a Rocks shirt next season.” Bognor will return for pre-season training in the first week of July.