Lewis Dunk says his loan spell at Bognor was a turning point in his career.
Born and bred in Sussex, the Brighton & Hove Albion regular went on loan to the Rocks as a teenager before making his Brighton debut in 2010. He has now played more than 250 games for the Seagulls, including 58 in the Premier League.
He earned his first England cap in November and Dunk, 27, said it was his time at Nyewood Lane where he grew up as a footballer.
Speaking to Sky Sports Premier League World, Dunk said: "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."
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Martin Hinshelwood, who was head of youth football at Albion, said: "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 added he thanks everyone who has played a part in his career and said: "I wouldn't have had the career or the life I've had if Brighton & Hove Albion didn't take me at the age of ten. They've built me into the man I am, built me into the player I am. I thank everybody who has worked with me, mo matter what they did in my career.
"A massive thank-you to all of them for getting me to where I am now. I got the England call-up, so everything they did got me to that point. It's been amazing."