Rocks shock: Charman leaves Bognor for Eastbourne

Gary Charman celebrates a goal v Harlow late last season / Picture by Tim Hale
Gary Charman celebrates a goal v Harlow late last season / Picture by Tim Hale

Rocks favourite Gary Charman is to go to Eastbourne Borough after being told he won't get in the Rocks team - weeks after taking on a coaching role at Nyewood Lane.

Although he had started assisting Jack Pearce and Darin Killpartrick in preparing the team, he had been told he is unlikely to play - and has joined Jamie Howell's Borough, rivals of the Rocks in National League South, 'for the foreseeable future'.

There is a gentlemen's agreement between the clubs he will return to Bognor if they suffer any sort of player shortage - and will not play when the sides meet in the league, with Eastbourne due to visit Nyewood Lane on August 28.

The news has come as a major shock to Rocks fans just two games into the season and Charman admitted he was surprised too, but although he did not agree he should not be in the Rocks' plans, he bore no malice to the club or to Pearce, who had outlined things to him.

Sami El-Abd is first choice at the heart of defence - Charman's preferred position - and Bognor now have Chad Field and Corey Heath vying to partner him. Charman is their fourth centre-half and that left the Rocks feeling he was unlikely to get many games.

Charman was, just a few weeks ago, lined up to assist the Rocks management team - first as a right-hand man to Sami El-Abd, and when he had to withdraw from the player-manager's job, Charman was told he was still wanted for a coaching/management assisting role.

He told the Observer today (Friday): "I made it clear at the start of the season my main objective was to play while giving help with things like training sessions and team choices. But I have had a chat to Jack and he didn't muck about - he said they had four good centre-halves and he didn't see where I'd fit in on the playing side.

"I contributed a lot last season to the promotion run and in fairness to Jack, he has said he hopes I prove him wrong. There's no malice from me towards him or Bognor - he has been honest, and I would rather know this now than later on.

"I'm gutted about it. I signed to play and hoped to contribute to the team winning games. But i'm 36 and I can't sit on the bench every week. The team and the squad is strong, you have to accept that. They have very good players at centre-half and in central midfield, where I can also play.

"I wish this hadn't happened - I've never been in this position in 20 or 21 years of playing football. But I want to play football - I need to play."

Charman said he could not predict what would happen longer-term. He did not rule out a return to Bognor and said he had greatly enjoyed his two seasons at Nyewood Lane.

"If playing hadn't been so important to me I probably wouldn't have moved on," he told us. "I want to be a key part of a team and having played all those years at Ryman or higher level I feel I have a lot to offer still.

"I think Jack has made a wrong decision but he has been very good at getting me out . He is Mr Bognor and we all look up to him."

Charman, who played and managed at Horsham for many years, has made 34 starts for the Rocks plus 40 appearances from the bench, scoring seven goals in the process.

Borough boss Howell knows Charman well from their time together at Nyewood Lane and will be delighted him to add him to his squad.

A statement issued by the Rocks said: "The club have agreed for Gary Charman to join Eastbourne Borough for the foreseeable future, which will give Gary the opportunity to play some regular football to aid his fitness levels. We are extremely grateful to Gary for his efforts for the Rocks and we hope to see him playing again for us in the near future."

Bognor go to Welling today (Aug 12) and host Whitehawk next Tuesday, having taken four points from their first two games in National League South.