US Portsmouth boss Tom Grice wary of former Victory Stadium colleagues ahead of Horndean’s Wessex League Premier Division derby visit
Back in the 2016/17 season, Tom Grice was part of the same US Portsmouth squad as Harry Jackson and Connor Duffin.
Tomorrow evening, weather permitting, he will welcome them back to the Victory Stadium hoping his USP side can pull off what would undoubtedly be the shock result of the Wessex Premier League season so far.
Duffin (7) and Jackson (6) have shared 13 goals for Horndean in 2021/22, while USP have conceded 31 times in their last eight league and cup fixtures.
‘It’s good to see players who started out at US doing well in the league,’ said Grice.
‘Looking back, it wasn’t funny at the time but we used to say we were Horndean’s feeder club in the same way Southampton were once Liverpool’s feeder club.
‘Connor Duffin is coming of age now, he’s one of the best players in the league. Any side with Harry Jackson and Connor in it will always score goals.’
Deans boss Michael Birmingham can also call on 12-goal top scorer Zak Willett, who has made a storming start to his Wessex career after being signed from two divisions lower Paulsgrove.
‘That’s why Birmy (Birmingham) does,’ said Grice. ‘He will watch football anywhere, even Sunday League football, to try and find rough diamonds. It’s paying dividends - a few more Wessex League managers could take a leaf out of his book there.’
Dylan Kramer is in line to become USP’s FIFTH goalkeeper of the season against Horndean.
With Damian Kelsall now unavailable due to work, Grice will hand Kramer a debut after receiving a favourable report from Locks Heath boss Dave Fuge, who gave Kramer 90 minutes in a 4-0 Hampshire Premier League win over Liss recently.
Jack Chandler is unavailable and though Grice is currently working on bringing in new faces, none are likely to face a Horndean side who have won 9-0 twice and 7-0 against Wessex Premier opposition already this season.
‘It's a free season for United Services because a lot of their players left and went to Moneyfields,’ said Birmingham.
'It's left Gricey (Tom Grice) and Jeffers (Jeffes, player-assistant manager) a tough job to get players in. The one good thing about United Services is the whole club, right from the youth system through to the first-team, is run in the right way.
'Gricey, Jeffers and Bob Brady, they'll be looking at us as the team they can get their first local derby win under their belt and kick on from there.
‘They've had a couple of good results - not against the PO sides - but they've had a couple of results in the league. I'm sure they're going to do well throughout the season once they find their feet - they'll be fine.
'I don't want any PO side being taken out of the league (Premier Division) - unless one of them is going to win it.'
Horndean will move up to third with victory over USP, a point behind second-placed Baffins with both clubs having played nine games. And the two teams meet next Saturday at the PMC Stadium.