Howell departs - and it is a shock for the Rocks

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Jamie Howell has quit Bognor for Eastbourne Borough.

The National League South club named him as their new manager today after talks last night sealed his move.

Howell has had job offers before but has chosen to stay with the Rocks. But he feels now is the right time to move - and Eastbourne Borough is the right club for him to go to.

His decision to leave Bognor for Eastbourne Borough is a shock - and a setback - for the Rocks.

He has been on the management team at Nyewood Lane for eight years, joining in 2009 as joint manager with Darin Killpartrick then becoming manager in his own right, with Killpartick becoming head coach, about three years later.

Howell had served Bognor as a player, playing more than 400 games and becoming a firm fans’ favourite.

He had started his playing career as a midfielder on Arsenal’s books and captained England schoolboys but his playing days were cut short by injury. He got the Bognor management job after a successful spell at Burgess Hill.

Howell, with Killpartrick at his side, had a tough start to life back at Bognor. In his first season, the club were on a downward spiral and suffered relegation from the Ryman premier division to Ryman one south in a difficult campaign.

But since then, the good days have heavily outweighed the bad ones.

The Rocks were agonisingly close to winning promotion back to the Ryman premier at the first time of asking, losing in the play-offs to Dulwich Hamlet after missing out on the title to Met Police by one goal.

They got the job done a year later, this time beating Dulwich in a play-off final, and they have spent the past five years in the Ryman premier.

Those five years have seen one third-place finish and two, including this season, in second place.

Two play-off semi-final losses - in 2014 and 2016 (the latter to Dulwich) - have been consigned to history by this week’s much-deserved promotion back to the National League South, earned, ironically. with another play-off win over Dulwich - this one in front of 3,119 at Nyewood Lane.

Howell has had job offers before but has chosen to stay with the Rocks. But he feels now is the right time to move - and Eastbourne Borough is the right club for him to go to.

With the Rocks having done well when they tested themselves against higher-division teams in cup competitions, Howell will feel he can give management in the sixth tier of English football a good shot.

Many at Nyewood Lane will just be disappointed he is not doing just that with them in 2017-18. They now have the tough job of replacing him in plenty of time to prepare for life at the higher level.

And what’s the betting the first game of the season pits the two sides against one another?

STEVE BONE

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