Pompey talent awaiting first-team fate after Barker audition piece

Jack Whatmough. Picture: Barry Zee
Jack Whatmough. Picture: Barry Zee

It wasn’t quite the audition piece Jack Whatmough was looking for in front of his new manager.

Now the 17-year-old is waiting to discover whether Richie Barker will include him in his first Pompey squad.

The Blues boss was present at St Mary’s on Tuesday night to witness the 7-0 demolition by their south coast rivals in the FA Youth Cup.

Barker had earlier granted permission to Andy Awford to play the Gosport defender despite his recent emergence into the first team.

Yet skipper Whatmough and his Academy team-mates endured a tough night in front of a crowd of 3,814.

And for the rising talent with two first-team appearances to his name, Awford believes it is part of an important learning process.

He said: ‘I asked the manager if I could play Jack and he said “yes and I’m coming to the game, I’ll watch him play”.

‘The lad’s got plenty of time to rest and recuperate if he is selected for the Newport game on Saturday.

‘It’s not like it is Friday and has to play the next day.

‘He’s fine, he’s not injured, if the manager wants him in the first-team squad – and I don’t know if he does, that will be his choice – then he’s okay.

‘Like the others that night, Jack has to learn.

‘He’s not the finished article by any means.

‘He has a lot of work to do and I have a lot of work to do with him.

‘But he’s one we think can push on and there are others.

‘To what level time will tell. Jack is a very good footballer but there are also some other very good footballers who I believe in.

‘Some of them didn’t show that enough against Southampton, if not all of them.

‘They have to learn from the experience, dust themselves down, take it on board and improve as players moving forward.’

Joining Barker in the St Mary’s crowd were players Johnny Ertl, Patrick Agyemang, Adam Webster and Jack Maloney.

First-team coach Alan McLoughlin was also in attendance, as were chief executive Mark Catlin, chairman Iain McInnes and board members Ashley Brown and Mick Williams.

And Awford revealed Barker visited the Pompey changing room before and after the match to address the youngsters who took part.

He added: ‘The manager came in before the game, which was nice, and then spoke after to them.

‘I’ve got to be honest, I’m not just saying this, but the three of us who spoke afterwards to the lads (Awford, Paul Hardyman and Barker) it was like a broken record.

‘There were no rollickings or ranting and raving. It wasn’t the night for that.

‘It was about picking them back up and making them understand that it’s a learning curve and it will happen again.’