'I'll embrace any challenge': Portsmouth goal hero on eyeing loan opportunity away from Fratton Park after Bognor success

With two individual accolades on the mantelpiece and 24 goals to his name, last term represented a remarkable breakthrough season for Dan Gifford.

Wednesday, 27th July 2022, 5:00 pm

Unsurprisingly, such eye-catching progress warranted an extension of his Fratton Park career with a fresh contract.

No longer flying under the radar, the 18-year-old’s flourishing progress is attracting attention, although his next career step is, for now, uncertain.

A loan spell at Isthmian League Bognor last season yielded an impressive 10 goals in 25 appearances and their Most Improved Player of the Season trophy.

Coupled with 14 goals in 17 outings for the Academy and earning their Player of the Season award, it’s understandable why interest is growing in Gifford, in terms of around Pompey as well as non-league circles.

Gifford told The Sports Mail: ‘I don’t believe I would be where I am now without that Bognor loan, to be honest.

‘You see a lot of players who can do it at under-18 level and score loads of goals, but I feel that putting myself out of my comfort zone a little really helped me. That’s the next push I needed.

‘I was in that place where I needed more of a challenge, something more physical, so chucking me into the deep end in men’s football was really, really good for me.

Dan Gifford in action against Gillingham during pre-season. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

‘That gave me an extra gold star maybe over other players, putting myself out there aged 17, and I thought I did really well.

‘I’ve always had self-belief, I know I can do it. I’ve done the more technical side at the Academy level, now I’ve had the more physical side at first-team level - and combining those will help me.

‘At Bognor I improved as a player. I’m not very big, but when I play under-18s football I can bully myself around a bit. I’m quite short, but quite stocky, so I can throw myself about.

‘Whereas against men, I’ve got a 6ft 5in burly defender behind me, so I can’t bully him! I have to learn a lot more about my body and how to use it, how to protect the ball, to understand the ways that football works.

University of Portsmouth

‘In an Academy you’re in a bubble a bit, it’s quite protective. Then you check into a men’s environment and nobody cares, it is literally the polar opposite, it’s ridiculous.

‘Bognor’s manager, Robbie Blake, is a lovely guy, learning off him was brilliant, so many important little tips.

‘His stature is quite similar to mine, so having somebody who has played in the Premier League being literally at my fingertips is so helpful. Picking his brain every now and then helped me so much.’

Gifford has yet to make his Pompey first-team bow competitively, with so far even a Papa John’s Trophy outing eluding him.

However, he has been given opportunities in pre-season, impressing with his desire and work-rate, while netted a last-gasp winner at Barnet on Tuesday night.

The likelihood, though, is another loan switch beckons as this prodigious striking talent continues to blossom.

The former Oaklands Catholic School pupil added: ‘Danny and Nicky will probably make a decision themselves on what sort of team will suit me, the level they believe will suit me.

‘I don’t want to be going to some team in a good league yet playing long ball, hitting it up the pitch to the striker, because that’s just not my game.

‘I want to test myself as much as possible, so whether that is back at Bognor or whether I go up to another level and try to push myself a bit more, that’s where I want to be.

‘I am undecided about everything at the moment, I’m open minded about everything, whatever happens, happens. I’ll embrace any challenge.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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