Appleton backs starlet for bright future

Karim Rekik
Karim Rekik
Conor Chaplin, left, and Oli Hawkins, right, are two options to replace the injured Brett Pitman against Plymouth. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey fans debate who should replace injured Pitman against Plymouth

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Michael Appleton has backed ‘fantastic’ Karim Rekik for a bright future after breaking into his first team.

The 17-year-old defender has settled in at left-back for the last two Pompey games.

Being a natural left-footed player, his inclusion has provided an important outlet in a problem spot for the Blues.

Joel Ward, Greg Halford and Tal Ben Haim have all filled the role since Joe Mattock returned to West Bromwich Albion at the start of January.

Now Appleton believes Rekik has added crucial balance to his side following his emergency loan arrival from Manchester City.

The Dutch under-17 international is in the frame to keep his place for the visit to Southampton at the weekend.

Regardless, his contribution has impressed the Blues boss.

Appleton said: ‘Karim is a physical specimen and a top, top footballer.

‘We tried to get him before the Bristol City game.

‘But Joleon Lescott had a bit of an injury and Man City were a little bit reluctant to let him out before that game.

‘But then he (Lescott) came through a couple of training sessions and once he was fit again they allowed us to take him and Luca Scapuzzi in.

‘They probably see it as getting the lads a little bit of experience.

‘It’s one thing being at a place like Manchester City where you have absolutely everything done for you, everything is on a plate.

‘They have to come down here and grow up and realise what it is really about in the world of football.

‘Karim is a natural left-footer who is certainly an option in terms of giving us balance.

‘He is a proper footballer and could probably play right-sided centre half if he needed to. He is a fantastic talent.

‘There is no problem at all with his age.

‘Footballers are footballers, you only have got to look at Scott Allan and Chris Maguire. Both of them are absolute midgets but don’t look out of place in the game.

‘These are kids who probably see their future in the Premier League or at worst in the Championship.

‘So hopefully we can take advantage of that in the short term and they can help us to try to stay in this division.’

Rekik was part of the Pompey side which capitulated in the second half against Burnley at the weekend.

It was in stark contrast to the Fratton Park victory over Hull in which the youngster made his Blues debut four days earlier.

But Appleton was satisfied with his display.

He added: ‘Karim did okay against Burnley.

‘I think he tired a little bit in the second half and looked as if he was treading water towards the end.

‘He got a couple of bumps and bruises throughout the game but you have got to remember he is only 17 and is going to get that.

‘It was probably a baptism of fire in the second half for him and he has probably not been used to that in his young career. So it will be a big learning curve for him.’