Bognor boss Jack Pearce has written an open letter to Rocks fans after coming under criticism as the season edges towards its conlcusion
Some supporters have taken to various social media platforms to vent their frustration at the club’s progress on the pitch having missed out on a play-off place in the Bostik Premier division.
Pearce takes his charges to Folkstone Invicta on Saturday for the final league game of the campaign before preparations being for the Sussex Senior Cup final against Burgess Hill Town at the Amex on May 7.
And Pearce wrote: “This is a reply to recent posts (though much against my better judgement given my dislike of social media). However unpopular, I will mainly deal with facts. Some supporters only seem to pick out certain parts of what I say in media interviews, which can change the context of the actual answer to the initial question.
“Let me start by saying I more than anyone appreciate the fantastic support we receive, especially given our home form, and I fully understand supporters’ disappointment and frustration to this season, and last. if I were in their positions with the knowledge they have I would think likewise.
“The club historically resource players from an area between Portsmouth and Brighton, and approximately 20 miles inland of these two cities, mainly because Bognor and its immediate surrounding area rarely produce players in numbers for the level of football at which we currently play.
"Competitor clubs within this catchment playing in this league, at the same level, or higher, are Eastbourne Borough (fought relegation since Christmas); Lewes, who have had a very similar season to ours but with bigger attendances; Whitehawk – most probably relegated; Burgess Hill – most probably relegated; Worthing – slightly better than ours (but during the period they had an abnormal number of injuries hardly won a match); Havant & Waterlooville – relegated; Gosport Borough – fighting relegation all season.
“All these clubs, apart from Burgess Hill, have similar or larger playing budgets and all, except us, rely on a certain amount of outside investment of between £25,000 to £225,000 per season. Many have also had outside investment to help with their facilities, another financial benefit we haven't enjoyed. Incidentally, our playing record against the Sussex clubs in the league is: played eight, won four, drawn four, lost none. I might be wrong, but in three of the scoring draws we were leading until very late in the matches.
“We have also had to contend with an abnormal long-term injury crisis which has affected Calvin Davies, Keaton Wood, Gary Charman, Corey Heath, Joe Dandy, Jimmy Muitt and Theo Widdrington. We have also lost the services of Tommy Brock and Dan Smith to a higher level of football. This has been coupled with the shorter-term injuries at vital times to Dan Lincoln, Joe Tomlinson, Doug Tuck, Mason Walsh, Brad Lethbridge, Jimmy Wild and Leon Maloney. This means that only three players – Harvey Whyte, Chad Field and Tommy Scutt – have enjoyed an injury-free season.
“For all these reasons I ask our supporters to have a reality check. Given the aforementioned, Robbie and I believe we've actually done okay and, in most cases, have extracted maximum effort from the players available – and our position, on reflection, is about right given the major disruption injuries have caused. This has made our intentions at the beginning of the season of managing a play-off position near impossible.
“One of the club’s main acquisitions this season, for which I've received no credit, is the arrival of Robbie. He is popular with both fans and players and has foolishly stated that he actually enjoys working with me, which some supporters – who have no idea how I work with the players and staff – have conveniently totally ignored.
“I would think the main reason for his support is because I've involved him in all aspects of team management, to a level not normally enjoyed by a coach at this level. He has virtually total control of training and set plays, major involvement in team selection, pre-match, half-time and full-time briefings, plus having the leading voice in the technical area instructions. The final say is obviously mine but we very seldom disagree on footballing issues and I have found his knowledge very beneficial.
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“I therefore find it strange if that if there is a problem some supporters believe the blame is totally down to me, even to the degree of not wanting to volunteer or donate money. If that is the best excuse they can conjure up I will just have two thank them for their support and move on.
“Can I also say I could have attempted to save my managerial reputation by spending the money in the bank, but I prefer to operate a sustainable club and use the majority of his money on ground improvements. This means that if the club attains promotion the ground is fit for purpose, which at the moment it is isn’t – for example 500 seats are required.
“Remember the club you're supporting is totally debt-free, for the first time in the last 60 years to my knowledge, with above average facilities, money in the bank and, when fit, a more than capable squad of players. I can assure you not many clubs in the country can state that fact – of which all involved should be proud.
“For the record I spend an average of 30 to 35 hours per week on an assortment of club business for which I have received no financial reward since June 2014 – which basically means I'm a happy volunteer. Don’t think I want sympathy as I am old enough to realise I won’t change some supporters’ perception of me or their opinions. But hopefully they will be better informed to make judgement. My main challenge now is to try to ruin Folkestone Invicta's play-off ambitions, even though they are in great form with an envious home record – and success could possibly help Worthing’s play-off hopes.
“Then we will try to assemble a fit squad for the Sussex Senior Cup final, with another three players from Saturday’s selection already cup-tied.
“Finally, staff and player support are the measurement I use when analysing my own performance and at the moment their support is encouraging – also I won’t be answering any additional questions, comments or making any further statements.
"Jack (also a loyal supporter for the past 49 years).”