Ray Crawford believes Pompey will struggle to fill the boots of departed star George Thorne.
The 18-year-old midfielder was yesterday recalled by West Bromwich Albion after four loan appearances.
Baggies boss Roy Hodgson made the call to bring him back three matches early following injury concerns at The Hawthorns.
It’s a massive blow to the Blues, with Thorne having made a big impression during his four-week stay.
His composure on the ball won him many Fratton admirers during his emergency loan spell.
And former Pompey and England striker Crawford believes the Blues will struggle to replace his midfield qualities.
He said: ‘George plays the game above his ears – he sees it all.
‘You can see why West Brom want him back, he’s a very talented young player.
‘We will miss him. He sits in that position, is a good passer of the ball, controls it well, gets around the park and sees a pass.
‘Who on earth is now going to take that role and use the ball as well or as effectively?
‘I was hoping we would have the lad for the season. I just think he complements everything around him.
‘He reminds me a little bit of Darren Fletcher at Manchester United in the way he always shows for the ball and takes up positions.
‘Thorne puts himself in the firing line, he wants the ball and makes runs.
‘There were times against Southampton when he was free and should have been used. He had his palms down his side wanting the ball and they didn’t see him.
‘This is a player who I think will go a long way.
‘It’s just a shame he has now gone back. I certainly can’t see a natural replacement in Pompey’s squad.’
West Brom yesterday also recalled Gonzalo Jara Reyes and Marc-Antoine Fortune from their loan spells at Brighton and Doncaster respectively.
All three are now set to be in their squad for tonight’s trip to Newcastle.
Hodgson added: ‘We do need these players.
‘It was a calculated risk to let those players go out on loan.
‘We worked on the basis that the games and the experience would be so good for them that it was worth taking the risk that we would leave ourselves short during that period of time.
‘But we always had the intention, coming up to this busy Christmas and New Year period, that we would probably want them back again and the clubs we loaned them to were aware of that.’