Caution’s the key as young guns ready for battle

Ashley Harris has been handed more game time in recent matches
Ashley Harris has been handed more game time in recent matches

The clamour to ‘throw in the kids’ is growing from the Fratton faithful.

And caretaker boss Guy Whittingham admitted that day could arrive much sooner rather than later.

But the fear remains over the consequences if Pompey’s youngsters are thrown in to the League One deep end.

Adam Webster, Ashley Harris and now Jed Walllace have all experienced league minutes this season and are included in the Blues’ current 18-man squad, which now includes Dan Butler.

Other members of the development squad are waiting in the wings to be called upon if needed.

The likes of Dan Thompson, Alex Grant, Elliot Wheeler and George Colson are on an accelerated learning curve at non-league level in case they are required to step up.

Whittingham is acutely aware of the dangers of throwing untried youngsters into choppy League One waters en masse.

The fear, of course, is it could do more harm than good to their progress if results continue to go against Pompey.

That decision could yet be taken out of the hands of the caretaker boss, though.

Whittingham has no fear about the manner in which the youngsters would be received by supporters, if they were used.

But it’s now about preparing them for what they could potentially face, as best as possible.

‘Back when Michael Appleton was here, the idea was to get these kids out over the Christmas period and have them training with you for a while,’ said Whittingham.

‘You can get some ideas into them and then get them out on loan at non-league clubs to learn about winning and losing.

‘That’s part of their football education.

‘That education might be accelerated because of the way things are, though.

‘It’s not a route I want to go down and it’s not a route we should go down because a lot of the time they are not ready.

‘We have to wait until January 15 and whenever the court case is after that. It might then go back to a situation where we may have to use more of those players.

‘We finished the game at Swindon with Jed (Wallace) and Adam Webster, while Ashley (Harris) came off for the last five minutes.

‘What you don’t want to do is have a lot of them on the pitch at one time.

‘I’m not worried from the point of view of the fans not taking to them because, of course, they will.

‘Those players will give it all they’ve got.’

Wallace has come into the Pompey first-team equation after a goal-laden period out on loan at Ryman League outfit Whitehawk. Butler had a stint at the Hawks, with Alex Grant looking for minutes at Eastleigh after recovering from injury.

Both Thompson and Colson are on loan at Dorchester, with Wheeler turning out at Bashley.

Wallace has picked up minutes in the past two games at Swindon and Walsall.

He has shown potential in those fixtures, although Whittingham has made it clear it is a big leap for the 18-year-old from where he has been plying his trade.

‘We’ve introduced Jed who has gone out to Whitehawk and done very well,’ added Whittingham.

‘No disrespect to Whitehawk but they are where they are in their league and Jed did very well, but League One is a different kettle of fish.

‘We are trying to introduce him slowly. He was on the bench and then on the bench and got on.

‘In an ideal world we’d take him out for a couple of games now.

‘He’s had his taste of things and that’s the ideal situation.

‘But if it gets thrown on us that we have to play the development group then so be it – that’s the way we have to go.’