Pompey boss revelling old boys’ reunion

Asmir Begovic in action for Pompey against Manchester United
Asmir Begovic in action for Pompey against Manchester United
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Andy Awford has already sounded out Asmir Begovic for his shirt.

Gone are the days when it was he who handed one out to the keeper.

As Blues reserve-team boss under Harry Redknapp, Awford would regularly promote youth-teamer Begovic into his side.

Marc Wilson was from the same crop, the highly-regarded pair frequently blooded alongside senior professionals in the second string as part of their development.

Both, of course, eventually progressed into the Blues’ first-team, making their debuts during the 2008-09 campaign – then came moves to Stoke.

Neither are expected to line up for Mark Hughes’ side tonight when Pompey visit in the Capital One Cup (7.45pm).

Begovic and Wilson have started both of the Potters’ Premier League fixtures so far but a squad reshuffle is anticipated.

Regardless, Awford expects to catch up with his ex-reserve team players.

He said: ‘The pair of them are great lads, grounded properly, from nice families and I am really looking forward to seeing them.

‘I have asked Asmir for his shirt, whether I get that or not I don’t know!

‘It’s just nice we played a small part in getting them on their journey to where they are now.

‘I was the reserve-team manager under Harry and they were the better youth-team players, among four or five who came up and played regularly with me.

‘Marc used to be a wide player, believe it or not.

‘I remember Harry saying one day he reminded him of Michael Carrick, so we moved him to the centre of midfield.

‘Then I said to Harry I quite fancied him as a centre half as he was going to be 6ft 3in, can pass the ball, reads it and is quick. So I had a look at him in that role.

‘He made his debut as a right-back under Tony Adams and is now in the Premier League as a centre half at Stoke.

‘Wilson has a fantastic array of passing.

‘He’s one of those who can spray it from the centre of the pitch or deep areas to get you up the pitch and playing at the back in the Premier League you have a bit more time on the ball so can do that.

‘Discipline-wise he came over a bit raw, so you have to make sure you get them on the right track.

‘And to be fair he wasn’t a major problem once he knew what was right from wrong in the football club.’

Both aged 27, the pair have each chalked up 138 games for Stoke and scored one goal since their Pompey departures.

Begovic left Fratton Park in February 2010 in a £3.25m deal, while Wilson followed in August 2010 as a part a cash deal plus Dave Kitson and Liam Lawrence.

And Awford still keeps in touch with the Bosnia & Herzegovina stopper.

He added: ‘Asmir is as good a goalkeeper as there is in the Premier League at the minute. When Knightsie saw him he knew straight away.

‘You won’t meet a nicer man, honestly. Forget his qualities as a footballer, as a person he is a lovely lad.

‘We’ve trained at Stoke a couple of times on the way to games up north and Asmir is the first one to come over, give you a big hug and say hello.

‘We have managed to stay in touch, he’s a fantastic lad.’