Maidenhead striker relishing Portsmouth catch-up with '˜grown-up' Whatmough and Close
The Pompey pair were promising Academy products the last time Ryan Bird encountered them.
Now Jack Whatmough and Ben Close are regular components of a League One table-topping side who could line-up up against the former Blues striker on Saturday.
Whatmough made his debut against Southend in November 2013 '“Â a League Two match in which Bird appeared from the bench.
As for Close, he was a highly-regardedÂ midfielder from the youth set-up, occasionally challenged to train with the first-teamers.
Both have blossomed since Bird's September 2014 departure from Fratton Park in a career which has now brought him to Maidenhead.
And the striker is intrigued to see the pair in action for the FA Cup first-round clash at the York Road home of the non-leaguers.
Bird said:Â '˜It will be good to see what Pompey are like, although obviously they are flying now, top of League One and aÂ good team on the way back up.
'˜I can't wait to see Whatmough, we were team-mates and he was 17 when I was there '“ and good then.
'˜IÂ thought 'This geeza's going to be decent',Â but Jack had quite a few injuries. It's good to see him come through that, with the club sticking by him, and he's now playing.
'˜Aged 17 he was one of the best defenders there, real quality,Â quite big for someone of that age as well, while really good on the ball for a defender. He had good attributes to go far.
'˜Ben was more in theÂ youth team andÂ you could see his talent as well,Â very good on the ball, would never lose it, and could definitely be a decent player.
'˜HeÂ trainedÂ with the first-team a couple of times. Ben was probably one of the ones they wanted to get over and test because he was one of the better ones.
'˜I also recognise Brandon Haunstrup. I would have seen him around and can remember the name, but never saw him play. They've all grown-up now.'
Bird quit plumbing to become a Pompey player in July 2013 '“ however has since returned to the trade.
After leaving the Football League in the summer of 2017, the 30-year-old picked up the tools once more.
He added: '˜I've gone back to being an electrician.
'˜Maidenhead are part-time, so IÂ work in the day and train TuesdayÂ and Thursday evenings.
'˜I didn't have to go go back to it, but I didn't want to sit down in the day and be bored. There are so many series to watch on the television.
'˜I can get a bit bored so thought I'd get the tools out and get back in the game. I have a mortgage to pay you know!'