Awford issues Wallace challenge

Pompey midfielder Jed Wallace Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey midfielder Jed Wallace Picture: Joe Pepler

Liam O'Brien. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Andy Awford has challenged Jed Wallace to claim a first-team spot in the face of an anticipated arrival of more attacking talent.

The 20-year-old handed the Blues a massive boost last week by signing a three-year contract.

It retains the services of last season’s leading scorer and a major creative input.

Yet Awford is striving to add other offensive options to his squad, with an eye on retaining the 4-2-3-1 system which flourished at the end of the campaign.

Fit-again Andy Barcham and first-year professional Bradley Tarbuck will join Wallace, Wes Fogden and Ricky Holmes vying for the three attacking midfield spots.

And with other attacking players potentially recruited, Pompey’s boss has called on the youngster to rise to the challenge.

‘Jed has got pre-season, he has got to get in the team – and I’m going to be signing more players,’ said Awford.

‘We have him, Barcham, Fogden and Holmes, while Bradley Tarbuck is under contract and an attacking player, so there are plenty of people and there will be more coming in that can play in those attacking roles.

‘So Jed has to be consistent, that is the challenge for him and he relishes that. I think he wants that challenge to push on and I think it will benefit him.

‘He must have a good pre-season and get fitter, get stronger, play and score goals and win games of football.

‘Jed will develop, he’s 20.

‘Some of the stick he was getting last year was ridiculous. He’s a baby, so for me needs to be allowed to develop the potential he has got – and he will get that time with me.

‘He has been a constant name on the team sheet for a season-and-a-half but suffered a bit of second-season syndrome last year where people suss you out quick.

‘He’s going to have to find other bits to his game, which can take time, and will need taking out of the firing line at the right time because he has played a lot of games over the last 18 months.

‘He will progress at the right rate.’

Wallace has made 71 appearances and scored 13 goals to establish himself in the Blues’ first team.

Inevitably, the temptation and opportunity was there for the midfielder to leave Fratton Park this summer. But Awford has persuaded him to be patient in his ambition.

He added: ‘Jed is ambitious and rightly so, he should be.

‘What I have convinced him is we can achieve those ambitions with him and I think he believes in that.

‘He’s an ambitious, impatient footballer. That’s not his fault, it’s just the way they live these days – they live in an instant world.

‘Young lads press a button and something happens.

‘But football isn’t instant and I have convinced him of that and, in my opinion, this is the best place for him for his overall development.’

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