David Connolly decided the time has come to issue a few home truths and told Pompey’s youngsters: Don’t ignore experience.
The ex-Republic of Ireland international believes some of the younger players breaking through at Fratton Park cannot handle criticism and are prepared to shrug off failure too readily.
Connolly, 35, netted his first Pompey goal in Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with MK Dons.
But he reckons some of the Blues’ promising young talents simply do not want advice from a player who has enjoyed a 19-year career, played Premier League football and earned 41 international caps.
‘I want to help – if they want to be helped,’ he said.
‘Sometimes I’ve spoken to young players and they won’t have it.
‘So I don’t know – you can only help people if they want to be helped.
‘We’ll see. If they want to be helped, I’ll help them.
‘Maybe their mum and dad tell them they are fantastic and they listen to that.
‘For me, they are not hard enough on themselves.
‘Lads shoot from 40 yards, miss the target, and then say “oh well”.
‘I don’t think that’s good enough.
‘That’s my view. Maybe they haven’t had much criticism in their lives.’
Connolly played alongside characters like Roy Keane for the Irish.
He was then signed up by the former Manchester United skipper when he was manager of Sunderland.
But while Keane was notorious for his straight-talking and dishing out of fierce criticism to fellow players, Connolly believes some at Fratton Park simply cannot take a dressing down.
He said: ‘All the teams I’ve been in have had it, whether they’ve been world class or average players.
‘If someone makes a mistake or needs telling off, I think they should be told.
‘But you say a few things here and the lads are a bit reticent to take criticism.
‘They are young players. At my age, if I have criticism, it’s water off a duck’s back.
‘Really it’s deeds that show it: your work-rate, how you train and how you play.
‘That’s how you set the standards.’
It’s been a tough baptism for some of the new Pompey generation who are making their way in the game.
Connolly has urged them to make the most of their opportunity – even if, as he hinted, the chance may have come along too soon for some of them.
‘Some young players have played more than others and are getting composed and used to it,’ he said.
‘It’s difficult playing league football against good sides.
‘Some of them have come from non-league football.
‘Some of the young players have had chances and are playing better now.
‘I’m sure they will get chances and I’m sure they’ll improve.
‘And I’m sure others will play. It might not be that they’ve earned it but they may get opportunities.
‘That’s when they have to grasp it. If they are given it, they have to grasp it.’