Conor Chaplin targets Pompey starting berth

Conor Chaplin. Hawks v Pompey pre-season friendly. Saturday, June 11, 2015. Picture: Joe Pepler PPP-150714-235545001
Conor Chaplin. Hawks v Pompey pre-season friendly. Saturday, June 11, 2015. Picture: Joe Pepler PPP-150714-235545001
  • Young forward not content with sub role after pre-season form
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Conor Chaplin admitted he is on a steep learning curve as he set his sights on forcing his way into Paul Cook’s starting line-up.

The 18-year-old talent has been one of the stars of Pompey’s pre-season and has emerged as a genuine contender to start next weekend’s League Two opener against Dagenham & Redbridge.

I want to start the first game of the season – I would be lying if I said I didn’t

Conor Chaplin

Pompey face a trip to League One outfit Gillingham tomorrow as they put the finishing touches to their preparations.

They will also send a team to Burnham on Tuesday – but it is unlikely to be a full-strength team.

With three goals and some impressive displays so far, striker Chaplin has done himself no harm in staking his claim to the manager and could yet boost his hopes further at Priestfield tomorrow.

And although he continues to make strides with his development, the youngster does not hide his immediate ambition.

‘I want to start the first game of the season – I would be lying if I said I didn’t,’ said Chaplin.

‘I want to play as much as I can so I want to play every game this season.

‘But I know it’s not going to happen like that.

‘I know I have got a lot to learn. But I’m working with the coaching staff and the gaffer on the training ground and that will make me a better player.

‘Being around good players makes you better all the time.’

It’s been a speedy rise through the ranks for the Worthing-born front man, after he made his first-team debut as a substitute in the 3-2 home loss to Accrington in December but had to wait until the final day of last season to make his first senior start.

Some may feel it is too much to ask for him to become a regular this season, although plenty of others have made the breakthrough at a similar age.

But Chaplin has already learned some valuable lessons and clearly feels he doesn’t need protecting.

He said: ‘It makes you grow up quickly and you’ve got to be mature to play first-team football.

‘To be honest, it is completely different to youth-team football.

‘You are there to win – it’s not just about development.

‘I could list hundreds of differences, even in the short time I have been involved.

‘You get a lot less time on the ball, especially someone like me who likes to have the ball at my feet.

‘It is a lot more demanding in general. People on your team will have a dig at you and maybe in youth-team football you wouldn’t get that.

‘But there is a lot at stake in first-team football so you get that sort of thing.

‘If you are playing with experienced players and they are having a dig at you, they are going to be right the majority of the time.

‘So I will always do my best to learn from what they are telling me to do.’