KEEPER Phil Smith has vowed to make a first-team spot his own – and finally step out of the Fratton Park shadows.
The former Swindon shot-stopper has still to make his Pompey debut after joining in December and being in the past 26 match-day squads.
Nevertheless, manager Guy Whittingham was impressed by his performances on the training pitch to award him a 12-month deal last month.
Former No1 Simon Eastwood’s summer move to Blackburn has now brought John Sullivan to the Blues as Smith’s new goalkeeping rival.
What’s more, Whittingham will leave the duo to fight it out during pre-season for the right to start the League Two campaign in his side.
And the 33-year-old Smith is relishing the opportunity to at last make the breakthrough into the Blues first team.
Smith said: ‘People don’t really know who I am at the club – but I am there.
‘I would like to play some games, I would like to establish myself as number one and I will give everything to make sure that happens.
‘You are guaranteed I will work my hardest to improve myself and help out the club and then try to go from there.
‘If that means playing every week, then fantastic. If not and I am on the bench, that is what I’ll do with enthusiasm.
‘But I want to be the number one and I will not be accepting defeat. I will give it my best shot and that is all I can do.
‘Being a regular and being on the bench is something in my career I have seen both sides of. Some people are in the mindset that being in the first team is good and being on the bench is not so good, but you have got to be able to accept both.
‘All you can push for as a man and a professional is to get a fair crack of the whip and if I get that then I will be happy.
‘I know people who have worked with John Sullivan and I expect him to do the same – that is what competition for places is all about.
‘We’re both starting on an even keel. I feel fit and the hunger has come back to prove myself to everyone.’
Whittingham admitted he contemplated granting Smith his debut in the final match of last season at Shrewsbury, only to stick with Eastwood.
However, Blues fans witnessed the keeper in action in April during the charity match against Hermann Hreidarsson’s IBV outfit.
And having got his fitness up to speed after five months out of the game, Smith believes he is at his peak.
He added: ‘I was disappointed the season ended when it did as I was doing really well.
‘I thought I’d done well in the last few months to warrant being given a chance, but Eastie was doing well.
‘I have always prided myself as being a hard worker and consistent performer.
‘I have proven to the manager I can perform in training and I think he knows I can perform in games because I have done that in my career.’