Pompey lad Magri targets England scalp after switching sides

England under-17s back in 2010. From left, back: Sam Magri, Jordan Cousins, Jordan Pickford, Courtney Meppen Walters, Hallam Hope and Nick Powell. Front: Ellis Plummer, Max Clayton, Raheem Sterling, Robbie Cotton and Nathaniel Chalobah
England under-17s back in 2010. From left, back: Sam Magri, Jordan Cousins, Jordan Pickford, Courtney Meppen Walters, Hallam Hope and Nick Powell. Front: Ellis Plummer, Max Clayton, Raheem Sterling, Robbie Cotton and Nathaniel Chalobah
Pompey beat Charlton to help get back on track and must continue to push on. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Sam Magri wore the Three Lions on his shirt 31 times, on occasions accompanied by the captain’s armband.

Yet on Friday, the defender has his sights trained on England after pledging footballing allegiance to Malta.

Sam Magri in action for Pompey at Fratton Park. Picture: Steve Reid (112523-714)

Sam Magri in action for Pompey at Fratton Park. Picture: Steve Reid (112523-714)

The Hilsea-based 23-year-old is striving for a sixth cap for the country he qualifies to represent through his grandfather.

Yet while on the books of home-town club Pompey, Magri earned international recognition with England from the under-17s through to the under-19s.

It was a period which saw him share a room with Raheem Sterling and, on occasions, partner Nathaniel Chalobah in the centre of a Three Lions’ defence which Jordan Pickford played behind.

Injury to Pickford ensures he will not feature in tomorrow evening’s World Cup qualifier in Ta’ Qali.

It’s strange how life works out

Sam Magri

However, Chalobah and Sterling could line up against a Maltese side expected to contain Magri in a back three.

A scenario which even the Ebbsfleet player regards as difficult to comprehend.

Magri told The News: ‘It’s crazy really when you think about it.

‘I shared a room with Raheem for one trip. From what I remember he was quite quiet and kept himself to himself but we got on well together.

‘You could always tell he had something about him on the pitch, though, and has continued to develop superbly.

‘We were part of England’s team in the Under-17 World Cup in Mexico, with Chalobah my partner at centre-half and Pickford our goalkeeper. It’s strange how life works out.

‘The opportunity to play against England really excites me. As a player you want to test yourself against the best, you want to see how you fare.

‘I was initially called up after the first group match with them, so this is my chance to face some great players.

‘I remember sitting in the stands at Fratton Park with my dad watching Jermain Defoe. Although I was on Pompey’s books at the time, I didn’t know him.

‘England are at the top of our qualifying group and everyone knows their players. They are a very good side.

‘Outsiders don’t give you much hope but in our team we believe we can do well and get a result. It’s just a case of going out there and producing it.’

After one appearance, Magri departed Pompey in August 2012 for QPR, subsequently representing Crystal Palace, Dover and now Ebbsfleet.

His wedding in June conspired to see him dropped to Malta’s bench against Slovenia. But he’s hoping to reclaim his place in Friday’s match.

Magri added: ‘Up until that point I had started four matches but ahead of Slovenia I had to leave the training camp to marry Ellie.

‘I trained for a few days then flew back to England for five days before rejoining the squad.

‘As I hadn’t trained as much as anyone else, I was put on the bench and made an appearance in the 89th minute.

‘After the game, we could then go on our honeymoon to the Maldives!

‘Now I have the chance to play against England and around 10 or 11 of my family will be there to watch, including aunties and cousins who live in Malta.’