FA Trophy - Rocks v Torquay: Why ‘Mr Bognor’ may miss first 80 minutes

Jack Pearce (right) with Fred Dinenage and the club's Simon Cook and Darin Killpartrick at an Obsver awards ceremony
Jack Pearce (right) with Fred Dinenage and the club's Simon Cook and Darin Killpartrick at an Obsver awards ceremony
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JACK PEARCE looked forward to one of the biggest days in the Rocks’ history and admitted: I’ll probably only see the last ten minutes of the game.

In 47 years at Nyewood Lane as player, team manager and now general manager, the Bognor legend has pretty much seen all the highs and lows there is to see.

But he has never got this far in a national competition before – nor, as a result, this close to Wembley.

Pearce’s matchday roles are many and varied these days and one of them is to sell raffle tickets to the crowd, which often means him missing most of the game.

And he is as blunt and realistic as ever when looking forward to a day when he might need a few extra books of tickets to cope with demand.

“I’m really looking forward to the game, of course, though I will see the last ten minutes if I’m lucky,” said the man some call Mr Bognor.

“It’s a great day for the club because when you’re at our level, days like this don’t come every year – they come maybe every ten, 15, 20 or 30 years.

“It’s important that the management, players and supporters enjoy it and I just hope the fans who come but who don’t normally come to games enjoy themselves and behave themselves. We have a good reputation and don’t want to lose that through anything getting out of hand.

“People may need to be patient and there may be queues getting in and for toilets, food and the bar. Come early is the clear advice.

“I also hope some who come for the first time start supporting us regularly. I remember when we had 4,000 to see us play and beat Swansea in the FA Cup in 1984. We were brilliant and it was a memorable night – then for the next home game, we were back to having 400. I don’t know what happened to the other 3,600.”

It’s a great day for the club because when you’re at our level, days like this don’t come every year – they come maybe every ten, 15, 20 or 30 years.

Read Jamie Howell and Darin Killpartrick’s pre-match thoughts here

Read about the Rocks official who after 65 years of following the team is dreaming of the final

Pearce said the Rocks had been supremely well to get this far in the Trophy, having beaten four teams from higher divisions (Bath City, Maidstone, Altrincham and Sutton) in the six round they had come through.

He said Torquay would present another tough test – and even if they came through this stage, the semi-final over two legs on successive March Saturdays, and probably against another National premier side, would be harder still.

“I think the psychological effect of losing a semi-final is worse than losing a quarter-final. You are that much closer to reaching Wembley.

“We are a small club still battling in three competitions so the end to the season is going to be hard.

“I think if you were to ask players and they were to speak from the heart, they’d probably rather have the chance to go to Wembley than win promotion, and I can understand that. They may never get that chance again.

“But the other side of the coin is that when a great cup run comes to an end, it can put you off your form in the league.

“I just hope that we get whatever luck is going on Saturday and everyone has a great day.”

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