True Blue Magri on brink of Three Lions debut

Blues starlet Sam Magri has won a place in the England Under-16 squad for the clash with their Wales counterparts on Thursday.

For Pompey Under-16s' central defender, who lives in Garnier Street, Fratton, it's a maiden international call-up.

It also marks rare England recognition for the city, having struggled to produce its own footballing talent for so long.

Magri is not even 16 until March, making him one of the youngest players in the 18-strong squad.

Yet his maturity impressed England selectors at trials in Derby back in August, among them former Fratton favourite and England Under-16 manager Kenny Swain.

He is now in contention for a starting spot in the Sky Sports televised Victory Shield fixture at Yeovil's Huish Park on Thursday.

And dad Graham is understandably delighted.

He said: 'It's fantastic news for all of us, Sam has worked really hard to get to this point.

'It's great for someone in the area to achieve what he has done, it doesn't happen very often and we're very proud of him.

'Sam was playing in the Nike tournament for the under-15s at Warwick University at the end of last season when they got to the quarter-finals.

'It turned out the England scouts picked two or three out and kept an eye on him.

'All of a sudden we got a letter through the post inviting him for England trials in August so he went up there and they obviously liked what they saw.

'I just think it's fantastic for the club and the city.

'Portsmouth has had so much bad press for so long so to have someone come through the system – a local lad – shows it works and good things are happening.

'Normally you have kids in the squads from Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea so it's good to see a Portsmouth name there.

'It's all good publicity – I just hope now Sam will be picked.'

Jake Thomson was the last player from the city to be selected for England, the Southsea youngster turning out for the England under-17s in 2006.

Yet that was while he was on the books of bitter rivals Southampton.

Now aged 20, he has made 16 first-team appearances to date, including five this season.

Before him, the most notable local player to receive England recognition was Paul Hardyman, who won the first of two under-21 caps in 1985.

His final appearance was in the European under-21 Championships quarter-final clash with Denmark.

Now Magri, who today linked up with the England training camp in Taunton, is bidding to follow suit.

And Graham is keeping his fingers crossed the former Meon Milton and College Youth central defender can win the nod to start against Wales.

Graham added: 'It's funny but at the age of seven Sam was first spotted by the club on a Football in the Community programme run by Paul Hardyman.

'He was invited up for a trial and they offered him the chance to play for what was then called the Centre of Excellence.

'Originally he was a midfielder, but has spent the last four years playing as a central defender and that's where they see his future lying.

'Hopefully he can keep progressing.'