Pompey young guns need to dodge bullets

Adam Webster. Picture: Joe Pepler
Adam Webster. Picture: Joe Pepler

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The story of a Chelsea teenager being handed riches before he turns 20 has caused quite a stir.

And it’s a tale which has resonance from the Kings Road all the way down the A3 to Fratton Park.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek stands to earn £1.7m before he’s out of his teens at Stamford Bridge, after penning the eye-watering deal.

Chelsea have also angered the player’s agent, who is taking the club to an FA tribunal over £1.3m in unpaid fees.

The biggest test Loftus-Cheek now faces is staying grounded after being handed millionaire status before even getting close to his side’s first team.

Keeping their feet firmly on the floor is a test that has also been dished out to Pompey’s emerging starlets.

Dan Butler, Ashley Harris, Jed Wallace, Adam Webster and Jack Maloney have all at least made the breakthrough into the senior set-up.

Pompey have gone to great lengths to keep the young hopefuls on an even keel through their fast-evolving careers.

It’s policy that is understandable given they are now the crown jewels in the Fratton display cabinet.

It’s just that when there are valuables on exhibition people tend to take notice. And there are always those who want to get their piece of the bounty on offer.

Amid all the positivity at the performances produced by Pompey’s young hopefuls, one or two reasons for concern have now emerged.

David Connolly’s recent assessment of working with some of the Blues youngsters set some alarm bells ringing.

‘Sometimes I’ve spoken to young players and they won’t have it,’ the vastly-experienced striker said on offering help to them.

‘Maybe their mum and dad tell them they are fantastic and they listen to that.

‘You say a few things here and the lads are a bit reticent to take criticism.’

Pompey have also tried their best to protect their young players by keeping them away from press duties.

You can debate the merits of a young adult being barred from speaking about his performance.

But the approach has been respected by The News and other local press.

So it was somewhat surprising to see a Sky Sports website special on Wallace appear last week.

The ‘Pompey sensation’, as he was billed, spoke in a question-and-answer piece which highlighted his first-team breakthrough and spoke of the midfielder being linked with Premier League sides.

It was the kind of contrived story which had an agent’s fingerprints all over it.

It doesn’t taken a royal blue-tinted crystal ball to guess how that story was received among the Pompey management team.

Wallace, who turned 19 yesterday, was also touted for a move to Stoke over the weekend.

He had also been linked with the same side and other Premier League outfits on the same Sky Sports website last week’s article appeared on.

With Dan Butler’s name, slightly bizarrely, being linked with Manchester City over the weekend, profiles are being raised.

The good news is dealing with Pompey’s youngsters to date has been a pleasure.

Wallace portrays the chatty confidence of someone beyond his years, Webster takes a slightly more shy approach while Butler, Harris and Maloney all appear friendly and polite.

There has been countless examples, however, of players who have started to believe their own hype prematurely down the years.

Guy Whittingham and Andy Awford will do everything to ensure that doesn’t happen down at PO4, and have taken steps to keep egos in check.

The challenge now is for these young guns to avoid the perils and pitfalls they are already encountering.