Updated: Dec 10, 2020
It is a concerning time for non-league football clubs - the coronavirus pandemic has already forced step 6 club NKF Burbage and step 7 side Marlow United, to withdraw from their respective leagues.
However, Bognor Regis Town F.C. have been working diligently to build a solid foundation in recent years and it's starting to pay dividends. Last week, the Isthmian Premier League side announced plans to renovate Nyewood Lane, their stadium and home since 1935.
Former Premier League footballer, Robbie Blake, who is now the first team coach at Bognor, is positive that these improvements will build a bright future for the Rocks.
"It’s huge. It’s fantastic. These improvements are only going to benefit the football club. We hope that we can get a solid team out on the pitch to get the empty seats filled with supporters," Blake said.
For Bognor to reveal such ambition during this period speaks volumes about the prudent management of the club over the past few years. Blake indicates how influential the supporters have been, praising both the staff and volunteers who work their socks off for the football club, as well as the loyal fans who have remained with them through thick and thin.
"If you’ve got everyone pulling in the right direction, you have a more successful football club. The resources are not huge at this level, but it’s made up for by the hard work and dedication people put in," he said.
According to Blake, there is a natural camaraderie in the dressing room as well, which not only strengthens relationships off the pitch, but also contributes to the team’s chemistry and sense of unity on the field. Both he and boss Jack Pearce have been shrewd in their recruitment, only bringing in players with the right attitude who complement the harmonious group.
The Rocks may have started last season’s campaign slowly, but Blake believes the team were still in a position to make a late play-off push before the league’s cancellation, with seven of the ten remaining fixtures at Nyewood Lane and three games in hand over a number of their competitors.
"The team has to take a lot of credit for the way they battled back and put themselves in the position where they could have made the top five. It would have been a tough ask but the players were good enough to do it," said Blake.
Whilst the health and wellbeing of the players is his greatest concern during the current Covid-19 pandemic, Blake’s now eager to push on next season and fight for promotion when the time is right.
"That’s the plan. You always want to aim as high as you can. Whether the squad and personnel dictates that remains to be seen, but we’ll be working tirelessly to build a successful team that’s capable of promotion."
In the current climate, Blake is the first to acknowledge that football has to take a back seat for now. Nevertheless, among all the worry and adversity, Bognor Regis seems to be setting the foundation for a bright and optimistic future.