But the Rocks manager at the time – Darin Killpartrick – had an idea the club had temporarily taken under their wing a player with a big future. His name… Lewis Dunk.


The lanky Brighton and Hove Albion youth player was just 17 and had been loaned to the Nyewood Lane club, then as now an Isthmian League premier division outfit, to test him in men’s football and see if he was ready for the next step up with the Seagulls.


Dunk spent around three months at the ground they call the Nye Camp  – little knowing that way down the line he’d be playing for Brighton when they signed a star from the Nou Camp – and showed everyone watching that he had what it took to stand up to the rigours of senior football, even at such a tender age.


And Killpartrick, who is now coach at Chichester City, had a special reason to want to look after Dunk and help him flourish during his Rocks loan spell.


“When I was 17 I went to play for Worthing,” said former defender Killpartrick, the man known as Dabba throughout Sussex football circles who has gone on to manage England Colleges teams for many years. “And Mark Dunk – Lewis’ dad – was there, and took me under my wing and looked after me.


“All those years later when Lewis came to us at the same age, I was happy to return the favour. I just made sure he was okay and that we gave him opportunities.


“Dean Wilkins was Brighton’s manager and Martin Hinshelwood was youth team manager and they both wanted him to come to Bognor at that time. They knew how we played and how we treated young players.


“Lewis came through the same development plan of centre-halves coached by Dean as Tommy Elphick, Adam El Abd and Joel Lynch, who all played for Bognor too at early stages of their development.


“With Lewis, you could 100 per cent see what a good player he was – from the moment he first played for us. He was perfectly at home in men’s football and that in a league that can be quite rough and tough at times.


“He was so calm on the ball or under pressure – but aggressive too when he needed to be, not afraid to put a foot or head in to win the ball. Nothing fazed him, ununsally so at that level for a player of his age.


“One of the reasons he came to use was that he was finding under-18 football too easy – he was strolling through games.”


Dunk’s Bognor spell – which incidentally came at the same time Bognor recruited Theo Walcott’s brother Jacob – was brief in the grand scheme of things. Rocks Statistician Andrew Relton put the facts and figures to it for us.


“Lewis made his debut on February 6, 2010, in a 3-1 home win against Tonbridge Angels. He scored his first (and currently last) Bognor goal on his third appearance, opening the scoring with a header in a 1-1 draw at home against Cray Wanderers on February 27.


“His eighth and final appearance was on April 12 in a 2-0 defeat at Aveley, the first time he featured in a losing Bognor team. He scored in the home game against Aveley on March 13, but unfortunately it was possibly his first recorded own goal in senior football. The game finished 1-1.”


Perhaps if Bognor had been able to use Dunk for more of that season they would not have been relegated, but that’s another story. Dunk’s spell at the Lane had done him the world of good and played a major part in his development – he made his Brighton first-team debut later the same year and has never looked back as he has remained a Seagulls mainstay throughout their rise to the top half of the Premier League.


And the value of his couple of months along the coast was omething Dunk acknowledged himself in an interview in 2019, a couple of months after making his England debut.


Dunk said then: “I went to Bognor as a young scholar and it helped me massively. Being that young and playing men’s football every week, that’s what you need for character building and understanding proper football, not kids’ football.


“There’s nothing like playing a men’s game of football. You have the fans there paying their money to go and watch you, cheering you or shouting at you if you make a mistake. It was a massive help to me to be there.


“That was the turning point where I grew up as a footballer and realised what it takes to play men’s football.”


Hinshelwood, Albion’s youth chief of the time, said in that 2019 article: “We used to send players to Bognor because we knew they’d get looked after. They played the right way and they need to go somewhere and be tested and get beat up a little bit.


“When he came back you could see he was learning about the game. He used to get smashed in youth games by not protecting himself, so he learned how to protect himself by playing men’s football.”


Dunk, of course, had a long wait for his next England cap, but put in a commanding performance in the 2-0 win over Scotland at Hampden Park earlier this week – a display that has had Brighton fans and plenty of neutrals saying he must be given more chances for his country and should be in Gareth Southgate’s thinking for Euro 2024, at least as a squad player if not a first-choice central defender.


Nothing would make Killpartrick more proud than to see Dunk get more England caps. “I was delighted to see him play the other night against Scotland and he didn’t put a foot wrong, I don’t think,” said Dabba.


“I did text his dad Mark to say well done to him. Lewis’ desire, commitment and attitude is the same now as we saw at Bognor and it’s lovely to see. After all there haven’t been too many who have gone from Bognor to England…!”