Bognor could have three Pompey youngsters boosting their squad this season.
They are set to secure the return of striker Brad Lethbridge, centre-half Joe Dandy and goalkeeper Petar Durin.
The trio, if their loans can be finalised, will add significant strength as boss Jack Pearce and coach Robbie Blake aim for a squad in which competition for places is hotter than ever.
Lethbridge scored 13 goals on loan at Nyewood Lane last season while Dandy and Durin each had very brief loan spells – Dandy’s having been ended early by an injury that ruled him out for the rest of the season, and Durin used only when first-choice keeper Dan Lincoln was out.
Bognor boss Jack Pearce said the club had ‘near enough’ agreed with Pompey that Lethbridge would play for the Rocks again in their 2019-20 campaign. And he said Dandy and Durin were featuring in friendlies, including last night’s visit to Horndean, with a view to signing them on loan.
If the three stars – all aged just 18 – can be added to the Bognor squad, it will beef up numbers already looking good following the signing of another ex-Pompey duo, striker Dan Smith and midfielder Freddie Read.
Added to the return of former fan favourites James Crane and Stuart Green, plus the retention of key men from the existing squad like top scorer Jimmy Muitt, midfielder Doug Tuck and central defender Keaton Wood, it gives the Rocks a competitive-looking dressing room.
Durin could find himself vying with former Havant and Salisbury stopper Charlie Searle to be first-choice goalkeeper at the Lane this season. With no sign of Lincoln returning, the Rocks may start the season with two keepers on the books – something they have not tended to do in recent times.
They have also signed defensive midfielder Tommy Leigh – brother of their left-back Ashton Leigh – from Baffins Milton Rovers after he impressed in the home friendlies against Havant and Pompey.
According to Pearce, any new recruits will be joining a squad in which spirits and confidence are high, boosted by a team-bonding trip to the midlands last week which saw the players do everything from putting up a 24-man tent to going on a three-mile run and engaging in six hours of training – after being woken up at 6.30am.
The trip ended with a friendly against Long Eaton on Sunday which finished 1-1, with Read scoring Bognor’s goal.
Pearce said: “It was a very worthwhile trip and the players were worked very hard. They learned some new skills and took on board a lot from our hosts from the armed forces about teamwork and discipline.
“We’ll do it again but probably try to do it closer to home and maybe with a match before the weekend rather than during it. But it was very, very good and I don’t think you’d find any of the 19 players who went say they didn’t enjoy it.”
Following last night’s trip to face Michael Birmingham’s Horndean the Rocks have two more friendlies to play.
They go head to head with newly promoted Isthmian south-east side Chichester City next Tuesday at Lancing for the Sussex Community Shield, then visit Gosport Borough three nights later.
The Rocks’ Isthmian premier season begins at Bishop’s Stortford on Saturday, August 10.