Rocks Review: Bring on the friendlies

Daryl Wollers faces a spell on the sidelines while his squad-mates build up to the new season  Picture by Tommy McMillan
Daryl Wollers faces a spell on the sidelines while his squad-mates build up to the new season Picture by Tommy McMillan

Manager Jamie Howell declared himself happy at the Rocks’ first week of pre-season training and said: Bring on the friendlies.

The Nyewood Lane squad have come back from their break looking fit and have had four sessions already - but are already champing at the bit to start playing matches.

They’ll get their wish for the first time next Wednesday, July 10, when they make the short trip to Selsey - before their first home appearance of the new season against Pompey the following Saturday, July 13 (2pm).

Howell said it was a case of so far, so good with training.

“With a few still away, we’ve not had huge numbers - we’ve been working with a group of 12 or 13 so far - but I’m happy with that. I’ve got no real wish to see dozens of trialists all over the place,” said Howell.

“The lads have been working well and look to have kept themselves in good shape.

“Terry Dodd’s come back with his weight bang on where it should be, and he’s looking sharp which bodes well for his season.”

Howell also revealed long-term injury victims Ben Johnson and Stuart Axten were continuing to make good progress. Winger Johnson is on the comeback trail after ten months out with crucual ligament damage, while Axten is training again after four months on the sidelines with an ankle problem.

“They’ve both been joining in full sessions and are doing well,” Howell said. “We’re giving Ben two sessions out of three with the squad then one on his own with the physio.

“Stuart has one area of his ankle that needs an injection - it’s giving him pain after he has trained - but his ankle strength is fine.”

One player who won’t feature for a while is young defender Daryl Wollers, last season’s supporters’ player of the year. He has seen a consultant and needs surgery on a groin problem. Another MRI scan will come before an op that should go ahead by early September.

Howell said the management and squad were looking forward to the friendlies starting. “They want to play matches now. It’ll be good going to Selsey next Wednesday for our first one. We have a great relationship with Selsey and aim to continue that this season.

“And we’re starting to look forward to Pompey’s visit. It will be a very tough test for us against a professional club but it’s one the whole club can enjoy, with a big crowd in the ground.

“Pompey have been very good to us with players and there are a lot of people in the area who support them.”

* The Rocks are winning praise for the behaviour and their pitch.

They came second in the Ryman League Respect campaign for last season, which means only one side out of 66 achieved fewer yellow and red cards. Carshalton Athletic won the award.

Secretary Simon Cook said: “Considering we were near the bottom the season before, this was a remarkable turnaround and reflects the work put in by the management team and players in trying to improve.

“However, pride of place must go to the managers and coaches on the bench. They achieved a perfect score from each referee in every one of the 42 league matches, the only club to achieve this in the entire league.

“The referees have to mark the club after every game on pitch quality, bench behaviour and quality of welcome and hospitality although we only get to see the results at the end of the season. It is very encouraging to see how well Bognor are regarded by match officials.”

The Rocks volunteer groundstaff are in the running in the Ryman League Groundsman of the Year competition. They’re one of three clubs on the shortlist, from which a winner will be announced at an awards ceremony on August 7 at the FA’s new St George’s Park complex.