ROCK’S stalwart Jack Pearce says continuing the team spirit of last year was the major factor in appointing Sami El-Abd as the club’s new manager.
Bognor have been without a gaffer since Jamie Howell left for Eastbourne Borough just days after the club had sealed a return to the National League South.
After speaking to a range of candidates, Pearce announced that El-Abd would take on the job as player-manager on Wednesday.
He will be assisted by Gary Charman and Darin Kilpartrick, both of whom have experience of being number one.
Pearce, who has spent more than 35 years at the club and is now general manager, said: “Because we have signed so many of last year’s squad, because one of our strengths was our team spirit, we have decided to appoint within.
“It’s been done with the best intentions and we all hope that he will do a good job.”
El-Abd’s first job will be to try and sort out the Dan Lincoln situation.
The goalkeeper was voted into the Isthmian Premier team of the year after a string of excellent performances last term.
But the former Reading trainee is in great demand and the Rocks are yet to hear if Lincoln is willing to commit to another year at Nyewood Lane.
Pearce said: “We will speak to Dan in the next couple of days but decisions like that are now up to Sami.”
El-Abd has a few days to dwell on the news about taking the helm. Initial thoughts will be on strengthening the squad, with only 11 players signed up for next season.
With just over a month until the season starts, El-Abd will want to bring in four or five players of his own to complement the squad he knows so well.
Then next week it is straight into pre-season training, with the players being put through their paces by fitness coach Neil Cockroft.
Previous managers had managed to escape the former Navy man’s gruelling regime of runs along the South Downs.
But, as player-manager, El-Abd will have to lead from the front, keeping focused on getting in to shape so he can marshal the back line as successfully as he did last season.
Then it is on to a packed pre-season schedule which starts a week on Saturday away to south coast rivals Worthing (3pm).
Some Rocks’ fans may be fearful that El-Abd may struggle to juggle his duties as a manager with a key player in the squad.
But history shows there are plenty of player-managers who have made a good stab at things in the past, such as Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool), Graeme Souness (Rangers), and Glenn Hoddle (Swindon Town and Chelsea).
Do half as well as those names and the Rocks’ fans will enjoy another good season.