Waterman's wonder switch to the Rocks

Dave Waterman can't wait to repay Bognor for giving him the chance to revive his career.

The former Pompey defender is expected to make his first appearance in a Rocks shirt in Saturday's friendly against Stevenage Borough.

It will mark his first appearance in more than a year since quitting the game to spend time with his family.

The 31-year-old wanted to be with his wife Lorraine as they attempted to turn their lives around following the tragic loss of son Oakley.

Oakley was aged six when he lost a long-running battle against a rare form of cancer in 2005.

Since then the couple have spearheaded a campaign which has raised more than 150,000 for the Oakley Waterman Caravan Foundation.

And five weeks ago they celebrated the arrival of daughter Rome – a sister to one-year-old Tahlees.

After spending time away from football, Waterman was feeling the lure to pull on his boots and get stuck into a pre-season fitness regime.

So he was delighted when Bognor's management team came calling and offered him the chance to join the new era at Nyewood Lane.

"I'm really excited about joining Bognor," Waterman said. "I was starting to miss the game and my wife Lorraine could tell I was itching to get back into it.

"I've always kept in touch with Jenks (Mick Jenkins) and Awfs (Andy Awford) so all this has come at the perfect time. They are putting together a good team and the calibre of players they are talking about is really exciting for the club."

Waterman played 88 times for Pompey between 1995 and 2002 before spells at Oxford United and Weymouth.

He then helped Gosport Borough clinch promotion from the Wessex League before temporarily hanging up his boots.

Waterman, who lives in Gosport, said: "I left Weymouth and had five months out of the game after losing Oakley. Then I phoned Alex Pike at Gosport just to get myself fit again and ended up playing for them for a season.

"But I wanted to be with Lorraine after we had Tahlees and enjoy being part of a family. After losing Oakley that was very important to me."

Waterman has also recently launched a plastering business with his brother Lee, so the attraction of non-league football 30 minutes along the coast is obvious.

"I just enjoy playing football too much to give up the game completely," he said. "And when you look out on the pitch at Nyewood Lane, who wouldn't want to play on a surface like that?"

A groin injury has prevented Waterman joining in any pre- season action to date, but he was able to come through a training session on Tuesday night.

And with a deal already agreed, Waterman can't wait for Bognor's Conference South opener against Worcester City on August 9.

He said: "With so many new players coming in it's going to take a couple of months for everything to gel.

“But with the quality of players here we should definitely be looking at a mid-table finish, and hopefully a decent cup run.

“I’m determined to enjoy my football and I think the fans can look forward to an exciting season.”

Jenkins is delighted to have Waterman on board.

“He’s a great signing for us but obviously at the moment he’s lacking match fitness,” Jenkins said.

“Hopefully he’s fit enough to play against Stevenage because he needs to get some games under his belt.

“Dave can play anywhere across the back so obviously he gives us some great options.”

Waterman and his wife Lorraine launched the Oakley Waterman Caravan Foundation shortly before their son’s death.

They had enjoyed precious time together while staying in a caravan at the Church Farm Holiday Village in Pagham and wanted the families of other children with life-threatening conditions to have the same opportunity.

A caravan at Pagham was bought in 2005 and earlier this year the charity handed over 50,000 for another on a site overlooking the sea at Devon Cliffs, near Exeter.

The couple’s dream is to have caravans dotted around the UK, so they need funds to buy them and pay for their upkeep.