Jack Pearce says the way the Bognor squad is shaping up for the new season with a mixture of new signings and fresh deals for existing fan favourties shows it is a special club.
In the past week, bosses have revealed ex-Pompey duo Dan Smith and Freddie Read are joining on permanent deals after a successful loan spells last season and 2018-19 top scorer Jimmy Muitt has committed to another campaign at Nyewood Lane.
That’s on top of playmaker Stuart Green returning and the likes of midfielder Doug Tuck, centre-half Keaton Wood and skipper Harvey Whyte confirming they are also content to remain with the Rocks and help spearhead a new bid for Bostik premier glory next time around.
Rocks chiefs are delighted with progress on player recruitment after a slow start to the close season which had some fans worried.
Pre-season training begins tomorrow and it looks like neither quality nor quantity will be a concern at this early stage of preparations for the 2019-20 crusade.
Defender Ed Sanders is returning while Pearce is due to meet Pompey academy chief Mark Kelly tomorrow to talk about the prospect of one or two loanees – with the Blues’ plans for striker Brad Lethbridge, who scored 13 goals on loan at Bognor last season, on the agenda.
That will be followed by Saturday’s Rocks trials day when Pearce and coach Robbie Blake will check out around 20 hopefuls.
Speaking after the latest additions, Pearce enthused: “It’s been said before – in fact, something similar was said when Doug (Tuck) signed on again – that this club of ours is special and it is.
“To have a player with the talent Jimmy Muitt has deciding to stay with us and grow and develop tells you so much about Bognor and the way we run the club – and also about Jimmy as a man.”
Pearce also indicated there could be more signings to come. The manager said: “We’ve made good progress with recruitment and we don’t intend to stop there.”
Muitt was Bognor’s top scorer last season even though he missed a portion of the campaign through injury. If the club’s intent is to be judged by who stayed from last season, then Muitt -- wanted by a clutch of suitors -- is surely the key component.
His exploits in front of goal brought him to the attention of clubs boasting much bigger budgets than the Nyewood Lane outfit and he could have left for greater financial rewards.
Pearce said: “Jimmy signing is great news – a real boost for the club and the supporters and we’re delighted that he has chosen to stay with us. “It’s no secret that he has had clubs keeping tabs on him with a view to trying to sign him, and that’s largely down to how well he performed for us last season, especially in terms of the number of goals he scored.”
As reported exclusively last week, Pearce has brought in striker Smith following his release by Pompey. Making the same move is midfielder Read, and former Rocks fan favourite Green is joining from AFC Totton.
Skipper Whyte, defender Wood and midfielder Tuck are others staying. Utility player James Crane has switched back to the Rocks from Worthing and left-back Ashton Leigh has made the permanent move from Wessex premier side Baffins Milton.
Green admitted he hasd a special place in his heart for the club after his previous spell.
Green, who also includes Moneyfields, Salisbury and Winchester among his former clubs, said: “Fans make a football club and I can’t wait to play for the Bognor fans once more. I enjoyed two great seasons at Nyewood Lane and the club and supporters caught a bit of my heart and I cannot wait to get back.
“When the chance arose to return I jumped at it. I had other clubs interested in signing me, too, but when I heard there was a chance Bognor would come in, I knew I had to hold out for them and not miss out.
“I played with some great players in my time at Nyewood Lane; players such as Jason Prior, Craig Robson and Grant Smith and they’ve all gone on to do so well with their careers. Ww shared some fantastic memories at Bognor and I want to create new memories this time.
“I am relishing the chance to work hard and learn from Robbie Blake. I’ve heard so many good things about him as a coach and that he is similar to Darin Killpartrick -- and that is great praise given just how good Dabba is as a coach.”
Lethbridge’s destination for the new season remains in the balance. Bognor would like him back on loan from Pompey but Blues boss Kenny Jackett is mulling over whether the 18-year-old should test his prowess at a higher level.