Others can follow ‘fearless’ Jack

Jack Whatmough. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jack Whatmough. Picture: Joe Pepler
Wes Thomas netted for Oxford against Plymouth

League One: Rotherham suffer late Payne... Cook’s Wigan falter

0
Have your say

Andy Awford believes there are more young talents who can follow Jack Whatmough’s lead.

The 17-year-old centre-back with the surfer hairstyle was handed his first-team debut in the former caretaker manager’s first game in charge.

The Gosport youngster then kept his place for the 0-0 draw at Hartlepool but missed the 2-2 draw with Wycombe through illness.

He was back in the Academy ranks at the weekend for new manager Richie Barker’s first game in charge following the FA Youth Cup defeat to Southampton.

But Whatmough is expected to return to the first-team squad for Saturday’s trip to Bristol Rovers.

And Awford, who has returned to his role as Academy boss, thinks others are primed to follow.

Awford said: ‘We all have to remember that Jack has only just turned 17 in August.

‘He did well in the games he played but he has also made mistakes. He is learning the game.

‘Let’s face it, if he didn’t make any mistakes, he would be playing for Manchester United.

‘But I like the fact that he wants to learn and he’s not the only one in the system at the moment that is coming through.

‘There are some good players in our younger ranks. We need to make sure they are looked after and we nurture them properly.

‘It takes time to adjust from Academy football to being a first-team player.

‘But I think we have got some good kids here. I suppose we all do.

‘If you asked the Academy manager at any other club, he would probably say the same.

‘You get a bit protective but we have some good youngsters coming through the system.’

Awford is keen to ensure the defender is shielded from the glare and perhaps understandably has stopped him from conducting any interviews so far.

But the former Blues skipper clearly sees some similarities from his own playing days, recalling how he played without fear in the 1992 FA Cup semi-final as a 19-year-old.

Awford said: ‘I remember my debut and it was a bit like that. You just went out and enjoyed it.

‘At that age, you don’t really think about it too much - you just enjoy playing football.

‘I played in the FA Cup semi-final with no fear.

‘If I had to play in the FA Cup semi-final tomorrow, I would be scared stiff because you know now what it means.

‘Other players have played in much bigger games than the FA Cup semi-final but when you are young, you’re fearless. You just go out and play.’

STEVE WILSON