The coach at local lads’ team East Lodge recognised Joel Ward’s forward-thinking talent.
Now Steve Cotterill is harnessing the fast-emerging young Pompey star’s attacking quality once again.
Ward was as surprised as anyone to be used at the front end of midfield against Doncaster last month.
But a clinically-taken goal in a fine display from the 21-year-old helped set the Blues on the win spree which awoke unlikely play-off ambitions.
And Ward hasn’t looked back since then.
It’s the first time the Emsworth talent has been utilised up the pitch since he was turning out in youth league football for East Lodge.
That, and a few games for Pompey when coming through the ranks, was the sum total of his experience in the role.
Yet, Ward has immediately looked at home giving opponents plenty to think about on the front foot.
And the young starlet is loving doing just that.
‘I’m thoroughly enjoying it in there,’ said Ward, who has picked up player-of-the-month plaudits in a fine first full campaign at Pompey.
‘Hopefully I’ve been able to pick it up.
‘I’ve certainly enjoyed the new role but I’ve never really played there!
‘I’ve played in centre midfield as a kid and further up the pitch when I was younger. I’m really enjoying it, though.
‘It gives me licence to get forward and use my energy.
‘There’s always something going on in there and I’m always involved in the game.
‘You get on the ball a lot and are making tackles in there, too. It’s brilliant.
‘It’s good playing with Hoggy (Jonathan Hogg) and Hayden Mullins in there and we think we are doing well.
‘It’s the first time I’ve played in there but wherever you go on the pitch you have to adapt.
‘I’ve been able to do that and have the players in there to help me, too.
‘I just love giving it everything I’ve got.’
Ward picked up man-of-the-match plaudits for his display at Bristol City on Tuesday night.
It was another impressive performance full of energy and drive from the talent as Cotterill’s men had the better of it at Ashton Gate.
It was the Robins who snatched a win, though, and ended Pompey’s bid to make it a record-equalling seven wins on the bounce.
The post-war league record for minutes without conceding a goal did fall, however, in the clash.
Ward is now calling on his team to bounce back against Boro tomorrow, even if he is staying cool on the chances of Pompey making the top six over the final 10 games.
He said: ‘We have to make sure we come out all-guns blazing against Boro.
‘There are definitely positives to take from the Bristol City match.
‘It’s the old one-game-at-a-time thing for me over the rest of season.
‘That’s the way we have to take it and not get too carried away.
‘Hopefully we can keep on doing what we are doing and playing how we are playing and then pick up the results.
‘We need to play like we did against Bristol City and get the win to go with it.’
A success against Derby in midweek ended three games without a win for Boro ahead of their trip to Fratton Park.
Pompey delivered a stirring comeback from two goals down to pick up a point at the Riverside earlier in the season.
Ward believes there is a superior quality in Pompey’s squad to go one better tomorrow.
He said: ‘We did well to get the result up there.
‘We did well in the second half after quite a sloppy first half.
‘But we did well to come back and get the result.
‘They have a good squad but we have some great talent in ours.
‘Man for man, player for player, I think we have the better squad at the moment.
‘We are still on a high and want to do well together.
‘Hopefully we can continue to come together and use the momentum we still have from our run.’