Jason is top Prior-ity for Toon

Bognor striker Jason Prior
Bognor striker Jason Prior
Bradley Tarbuck, right, in action against Pompey during pre-season. Picture: Joe Pepler

Hawks boss calls for focus in Moneys warm-up

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BOGNOR striker Jason Prior is in line for a fairytale move to Newcastle United.

The 23-year-old former Moneyfields front man is due to travel to the north-east in the next few days in a bid to impress Toon boss Alan Pardew in a trial.

Premier League Newcastle are a full seven divisions above Ryman League division one South, where former Moneyfields goal ace Prior has been plying his trade for the Rocks.

Prior has also been shocked by the turn of events and admitted he’s still getting his head around the St James’ Park side’s interest.

‘I still can’t really believe it,’ said Prior, who has scored 95 goals in 124 matches for Bognor.

‘It’s been a mad 24 hours and it’s an absolutely surreal situation.

‘I have had lots of messages of support and I would like to thank everyone who has been in touch.’

Newcastle’s move comes after the Rocks reluctantly agreed a £12,500 deal to sell Prior to Blue Square Bet South outfit Eastleigh.

The striker was due to make one last appearance for the Rocks at Whitehawk on Monday, before making the switch to the Silverlake Stadium.

But that move is now off after Spitfires boss Ian Baird withdrew his offer following Newcastle’s interest.

Eastleigh officials were initially angry at what they saw as a broken agreement.

However, it is understood that no contract or registration had been signed by either Prior or the Rocks.

In a statement released by Eastleigh, they confirmed that their interest in the player has now ended.

‘We have spoken with Bognor in respect of Jason Prior and withdrawn our offer for the player,’ it read.

‘It is a FACT that we had a confirmed agreement with Bognor to sign the player on January 3, 2012.

‘Both clubs have come to agreement in respect of this matter, no further action will be taken by either club.’

For Bognor, who were reluctant to sell Prior, the race is now on to find a replacement for the prolific goalscorer.

Nyewood Lane bosses Jamie Howell and Darin Killpartrick hope to keep loanee Steve Harper – scorer of the winner in the Boxing Day win over Worthing – at the club and have challenged Terry Dodd to take the chance to step up and become the club’s new goal king.

In the mean time, both have wished Prior well in his pursuit of a dream move to Newcastle.

‘Jason’s been a pleasure to work with,’ said Killpartrick. ‘He’s one of the best centre-forwards, technically, I’ve seen at Bognor.

‘The way he finishes from inside or outside the box or with his head is superb.

‘I’m gutted he is leaving but it’s the way the food chain works.’

Howell added: ‘It was inevitable Jason would move on at some point with the number of goals he has scored.

‘We want to get a replacement, but it’s not as simple as just finding another forward of his calibre.

‘We have Terry Dodd, Steve Harper and Ben Andrews in the squad at the moment who are all proven strikers – it’s not like we have an acute shortage there.

‘But we do want to bring another.

‘Recently, we’ve looked to bring in young players who we can improve and bring through but perhaps this time we will be looking for someone with experience.’