The dream was to make it at the highest level with his hometown club.
But like so, so many aspiring footballers James Bolton found those hopes dashed as a teenager.
And from having his sights on a breakthrough at Premier League Stoke, Pompey’s new arrival found himself thrown on to the non-league game scrapheap as a teenager.
Many young prospects would never have been seen again after being dealt such a blow.
But in stints with Macclesfield, Workington, Halifax and Gateshead, Bolton showed the resilience to regroup and fight back.
And after Shrewsbury took a gamble on the right-back he now can look forward to playing in front of packed crowds at Fratton Park next term.
The 24-year-old admitted it’s a prospect he could never have anticipated when mixing it in some of the game’s non-league backwaters.
‘To be honest, no, I never would’ve thought it would happen (a big move),’ Bolton said, after signing a three-year deal last Friday.
‘I played a lot of non-league football and sometimes it’s easy to get a little bit lost down there.
‘It can be quite hard to get out of it once you are down there.
‘It can be quite hard to find a team to take a chance on you.
‘You can never say the dream is dying, though.
‘It’s just a matter of taking chances and doing as well as you can.
‘There’s a lot of good players down there.
‘There are players who aren’t as fortunate to get that chance to play in the league.
‘But it’s a good standard and I think there’s a lot of players at non-league level capable of making the step up.’
Fortunately for Bolton, he found a manager in Paul Hurst who showed faith in his ability by taking him to New Meadow two years ago.
He admitted he thought chances would be limited after stepping up, but instead he became a key cog of the surprise package of the 2017-18 season.
That, of course, memorably saw the Shrews go within a whisker of gaining promotion before falling to Rotherham at Wembley in the League One play-off final.
Bolton added: ‘I was playing week-in, week-out (at Gateshead) but you just want someone to take a chance on you
‘Luckily for me Shrewsbury did and I will be forever grateful for that.
‘To be honest, I thought I would go there and be a bit-part player.
‘It didn’t work out like that, though. I got into the team and became a main starter.
‘I’ve been able to rise to it so far and hopefully I can continue to do that at Portsmouth.’