Appleton tips Harris for bright Pompey future

Ashley Harris, aged 10, playing for Purbrook Junior School. Picture: Michael Scaddan (042152-0041)
Ashley Harris, aged 10, playing for Purbrook Junior School. Picture: Michael Scaddan (042152-0041)
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Within 60 seconds of his debut the Fratton end were singing his name.

It was a dream start for Purbrook youngster Ashley Harris.

And a player Michael Appleton is convinced represents the future of Pompey.

The 18-year-old climbed off the Pompey bench to replace David Norris in stoppage-time of the 4-1 romp over Birmingham.

It was a cameo which immediately drew chants of ‘One Ashley Harris’ from the supporters of his home-town club.

Fans relish the emergence of local talent – and the former Purbrook Park School pupil is certainly that.

Crucially, Appleton himself is a big admirer of the diminutive forward who impressed earlier this season during the Academy’s FA Youth Cup run.

And he is convinced Harris has a role to play in the club’s future.

He said: ‘For me, he is the future of Portsmouth.

‘Marko (Futacs), Ashley, Webbo (Adam Webster), Kelvin (Etuhu), all these people to go with the Wards and Pearces. These are the future of Portsmouth.

‘I was delighted for young Ashley the other night.

‘I just felt it was an opportunity, with the clock ticking and the state of the game, to get him on the field.

‘I did give him a right rollicking, though, for not shooting and trying to take on the extra man in the Birmingham box.

‘I watch him shoot every day in training and he hits it as true as anyone.

‘He’s a local lad and someone I’ve had training with me for six weeks or so.

‘He will be in around us from now until the end of the season and definitely for next year.

‘Sometimes lads catch your eye.People might tell you about certain players to be aware of but the first time I can honestly say I saw Ash was in the Youth Cup against Bristol City.

‘The next day I was almost giving Andy Awford an interview: “Who is this kid, tell me about him, what’s his background?”’

‘I thought he was good again against Swansea in the next round.

‘Since Christmas we have had him in with us a little bit more and then the past three weeks or so we’ve had him pretty much every day.

‘I think he is a talent. I like the way he does things, he passes the ball crisply, is always on the move, is a good finisher and has a good technique.

‘I have already spoken to him about next season in regards to what happens and he will be part of the squad next year.

‘In the meantime, there are nine games – so I am sure there will be more opportunities for him between now and the end of the season.’

Harris has scored eight goals in 21 games for Andy Awford’s Pompey Academy this season.

That includes a brace in the 5-1 FA Youth Cup hammering of Bristol City at Fratton Park back in December of last year.

The forward is a second-year scholar having signed forms in July 2010, along with the likes of Ryan Williams, Sam Magri, Alex Grant and Dan Butler.

And Harris is continuing to impress with his ability.

Appleton added: ‘The first team won’t bother him, I can tell you that.

‘He has got the right, good temperament to go with it as well, which is always important.

‘He is only a small lad but he has almost got that little-man syndrome.

‘He’s got that bounce and spring about him – that bring it on type of thing, which I quite like.

‘Ashley is predominantly a forward but does cross the ball really, really well.

‘The players are usually a good judge.

‘I wouldn’t necessarily go and ask a player what he thinks about someone.

‘But as a manager you go around, you speak to players, you are in their conversations, you listen to conversations, you pretend to have your back to them but listen.

‘And you can tell they think he is a good player.’