ENDA STEVENS admitted Pompey was his ‘last-chance saloon’ as he bids for his international bow.
The former Blues left-back could receive his Republic of Ireland debut tomorrow against Turkey in Antalya.
And the League Two title-winner thanked former Pompey manager, Paul Cook, for playing a key role in invigorating his career.
The 27-year-old went from the top flight to League Two in a bid to kick-start his fortunes – a brave move which paid off as he joined Championship side Sheffield United in the summer.
Stevens told the Irish Times: ‘It (Villa) had been a massive step up and it wasn’t that I wasn’t ready, I just didn’t appreciate it
‘I didn’t work as hard as I could to become an Aston Villa player.
‘It got to my head a bit, you think you have made it and that but you are nowhere near making it. At the end of the day, I wasn’t good enough but I had to come away, down the leagues, to find that out.
‘It was never in my mind to come home (to Ireland), but it did cross my mind that I might have to.
‘The phone wasn’t ringing. So when I got the chance to go to Portsmouth I jumped at it.
‘It was my last-chance saloon, definitely; if it didn’t work out there, I don’t know where I would have been.
‘He (Cook) was excellent, he leaves all egos outside the door. He sat me down and said I want you doing this and I don’t want you doing this. I won’t say any more.
‘He makes you work as hard as you can and it’s the fittest I have been. When I went to Portsmouth, he got me as fit as I could be and my football benefited from it.’
Stevens admitted he was slightly surprised the international call has arrived for him now.
He added: ‘I knew I had to get to this level (Championship) to have a chance of being called up.
‘Being honest I wasn’t expecting it so soon. Now that I’m here, though, I’m just trying to buy in to what these lads are doing and what they’re about.’