USA coach Jill Ellis doubts her passion for football would exist had she not been a ‘Pompey lass’.
Ellis lived in Cowplain 10 years before moving to America as a teenager in 1981.
The 52-year-old is now preparing to take on the country of her birth as her US side, the World Cup holders, face England in the semi-finals in Lyon tonight.
Ahead of the game, the former Padnell Junior School pupil credited her time spent on the south coast as key to her footballing education.
However, her loyalties at such a young age were often split, with Ellis admitting she preferred to support Manchester United as a child over Pompey.
Ellis said: ‘I was a Pompey lass. I can’t say I always supported Pompey – I’ve been a Man Utd fan since I was seven. But I have a lot of fond memories, (there were) a lot of great people.
‘My whole British culture and growing up is still with me, for sure. I’m very grateful for that because I don’t think, had I grown up in another country, the passion for football would be where it is.’
Ellis did not have the opportunity to play organised football while she lived in Longwood Avenue, however, as the women’s game was still to reestablish itself in the aftermath of it being banned by the Football Association.
Those chances came after she moved to the US, and they in turn eventually led to a career in coaching.
She rose through the college coaching system and into the national team set-up. Ellis was appointed as full-time USA coach in 2014 and oversaw World Cup success the following year.
Her British life continues to influence her though, not least in citing Sir Alex Ferguson as one of her coaching inspirations.
She met the former Manchester United manager once, at a FIFA event.
‘I bumped into him in a hallway,’ said Ellis, whose side beat France in the quarter-finals to set up the England clash.
‘He was super gracious, charming, nice.
‘That was a brief interaction but I’ve read his books and, being a young Man Utd fan way back in the day, I was all in.’