Non-league game has given Fish hunger to succeed

Matt Fish in action against Morecambe on his Pompey debut. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matt Fish in action against Morecambe on his Pompey debut. Picture: Joe Pepler

Matt Fish believes a non-league adventure has fuelled his hunger to make it in football.

The Pompey loanee has targeted making it into the upper echelons of the game after climbing back into the professional ranks.

Fish has delivered a promising start to his time at Fratton Park in his two appearances, following his loan arrival from Gillingham.

The 25-year-old explained he is being fired up to deliver after dropping out of league football, following his release from Crystal Palace as a teenager.

Dover Athletic, under Gills great Andy Hessenthaler, offered the right-back a place to continue his education.

It was a move Fish is glad he made.

He said: ‘I was at Palace as a kid. Then I dropped down to non-league football for three years.

‘I was playing men’s football under Andy Hessenthaler and grew up a lot.

‘When I left Palace I was an 18-year-old scholar. I was a kid and quite skinny.

‘I didn’t really say a lot and went into men’s football and played 150 games in three or four seasons.

‘I was playing against men, ex-pros who didn’t want to play pro football, so dropped into non-league.

‘I was in the changing room with them every day and playing against them.

‘They were experienced pros and Hessy (Hessenthaler) ran Dover like a pro club, even if it was part-time.

‘It was really good for me and helped me a lot. I did help me grow up.

‘It’s made me hungry and kept me grounded.

‘It definitely makes me want it even more after being out of it. I know what it’s like.’

It was Hessenthaler’s return to Gillingham as manager which sparked Fish’s move to Priestfield in 2011.

Martin Allen then assumed control and guided the side to the League Two title in the 2012-13 campaign.

A knee injury slowed Fish’s progress but now he is looking for regular minutes at Pompey.

‘The last season at Dover we had a good cup run,’ said Fish.

‘That’s when the Gills came and took me with Andy.

‘The first season was a bit different because it was pro football and I’d never been in that environment. Then Hessy left and Martin Allen came in.

‘He gave me an opportunity, really, and I took it.

‘That was the best season of my career and we won the league.

‘I got in the team of the year and scored a few goals.

‘Martin gave me a new deal but I was unfortunate and got an injury, but that’s football.’

After dropping down a division to link up with Pompey, Fish is confident he can be playing higher up the football ladder moving forward.

‘People told me when I left as a scholar sometimes you have to go down to come up,’ added Fish.

‘It was an opportunity, I took it and then Hessy took me back into the pro game.

‘I still feel I can go higher than I am now. Where that will be, we will see. What will be will be.

‘I know I can play higher, though.’