FORMER Pompey Academy graduate Lewis Stockford believes his move to the Hawks will help re-ignite his passion for football.
The midfielder yesterday penned a one-year contract at Westleigh Park – along with Dover Athletic’s Ed Harris – following his release from Fratton Park at the end of the season.
His departure brought his 11-year association with his home-town club to an end – 12 months after the 19-year-old looked set to make a first-team breakthrough.
Stockford featured in all of Pompey’s pre-season games last summer but soon found himself sent out on loan to Salisbury City and then AFC Totton.
That came as a blow to the former Priory School pupil.
Yet he’s determined not to let his experiences of the past year affect his confidence.
And with Stockford delighted to have his immediate future sorted, he’s keen to make the most of the chance offered to him by Hawks boss Stuart Ritchie and eventually return to the professional ranks.
‘I fell out of love with football,’ said Stockford.
‘My confidence dipped and it is difficult to get it back if you are not playing regularly.
‘Next season is a big one for me because I want to get back into the professional game.
‘Signing for the Hawks will give me the perfect opportunity to show what I am capable of.
‘I am hungry for it again and determined to get my passion back.
‘It was terrific at Pompey but I can understand why I was released.
‘What I needed last season to develop was reserve-team football and it didn’t exist.
‘It was a huge step up to playing in the Football League and the stepping stones weren’t there.’
Stockford believes signing for the Blue Square Bet South side is an ideal move at this stage of his fledgling career.
But he recognises competition for places under Ritchie is likely to be stiff – and he will have to fight for a starting role.
‘I am not afraid of hard work,’ said Stockford.
‘The Hawks squad is massive and I will have to fight for the shirt.
‘Competition should bring the best out of all of us.
‘I can’t wait to get going.’
Fellow new-signing Harris moved to Dover last season after being a regular in the AFC Wimbledon side who won promotion to the Football League in 2010-11.
Still only 21 years old, his signature is seen as a massive coup at Westleigh Park.
He is the second central defender to arrive at Westleigh Park during the summer, with Sutton United’s Sam Page already signed up.
Assistant-manager Barry Blankley is delighted with the new arrivals.
‘They are all keen and ambitious and the right age for us.’
Meanwhile, Gosport Borough have signed former Hawks midfielder Sammy Igoe.
He joins fellow new additions at Privett Park following the arrival of Chamal Fenelon and James Coutts.