Rocks’ stalwart James Crane claims the Bognor Regis squad have never been in better shape as they gear up for new campaign.
Football returned to Nyewood Lane on Saturday after the short summer recess when League One side Portsmouth visited for a friendly.
Despite missing the hastily arranged friendly due to prior commitments, Crane said the squad was in great shape for the forthcoming National League South season.
And the goalscoring left-back claims a major reason for that is club captain Sami El-Abd, who was forced to step down as manager last week after just 12 days at the helm.
Crane said: “We’re a lot fitter at this stage than we’ve ever been.
“Everyone has been putting the hours in and we are doing a lot of high intensity work and sprint work with minimal rest.
“To be honest, it is Sami who is pushing us. What he has done in terms of training has been brilliant and it’s really starting to show on the pitch.”
Bognor’s 2-0 friendly loss to Portsmouth was the first chance that many Rocks fans had of seeing the team since the Ryman Premier play-off victory over Dulwich in May.
Since then, manager Jamie Howell has departed for Eastbourne Borough while his replacement El-Abd lasted less than a fortnight, stepping down after being told by employers Brighton and Hove Albion the job was a ‘conflict of interest’.
That led to general manager Jack Pearce taking up the reins once again, although he will be supported by coaches Darin ‘Dabba’ Kilpartrick and Gary Charman.
Crane, who has been at the club since 2008, said, despite the apparent upheaval, the mood has never been better in the camp.
He said: “The change has been quite seamless really.
“Jack may be old school in terms of what he is and his experience but everyone listens to him as he’s been through so much.
“How he talks to people is up with the modern game and what I would expect of someone at this level”.
Bognor have bolstered their ranks in recent days with the signings of creative midfielder Pat Suraci, who last appeared for Gosport Borough, and ex-Portsmouth youth player Tommy Lea.
Another Pompey apprentice to sign on for the new campaign is Tommy Scutt, who was on Bognor’s books towards the end of last season.
Perhaps, more importantly, goalkeeper Dan Lincoln appears to have committed to the club for the foreseeable future, returning to the Rocks’ ranks for the Portsmouth friendly.