Paul Cook insists he would have no issue pairing Matt Clarke with Adam Webster as Pompey’s regular central-defensive partnership.
The Blues are waiting to learn the full extent of the ankle injury Christian Burgess sustained against Hartlepool on Saturday.
Matt Clarke does to you what Webster did to you every day by showing “I should be playing”Paul Cook
Should his absence be confirmed, it opens the door for Clarke to make a return for next weekend’s trip to Northampton.
The 19-year-old recently lined up alongside Webster in the FA Cup victory over Accrington Stanley for his first start in 10 matches.
Now Cook is facing up to the possibility that the Ipswich loanee will be required for more first-team action.
But he has no qualms over fielding Clarke, whose loan spell expires on January 3.
‘I thought Matt Clarke was excellent against Accrington. He is a terrific player, we are very lucky with him, Webster and Burgess,’ said Cook.
‘If you look at Webster missing out for the first 12 league games, his performances in the Capital One Cup were exceptional – as were his performances in training every day.
‘Now Matt Clarke does to you what Webster did to you every day by showing: “I should be playing”.
‘I think the three of them are outstanding young centre-halves and as the weeks go by Jack Whatmough is growing stronger and stronger every day. What a position we are in with young centre-halves at the minute.
‘Clarke needs to play, these are the problems you have as a manager. Do you chop and change it weekly – which we don’t like doing – or do you just try to keep people happy. Sometimes it’s the latter one for me.
‘You normally think centre-halves will find a way back in through suspension and different stuff, but until Saturday ours hadn’t had many injuries in those areas.
‘But with the central defenders, any two of those three could play together without a doubt.’
Burgess underwent a scan yesterday, having left Fratton Park on Saturday evening wearing a protective boot.
It will soon become clearer the extent of the damage inflicted by substitute Mikael Mandron, who was booked for the ugly 85th-minute challenge.
Clarke came off the bench to slot in beside Webster as the Blues went on to inflict a 4-0 defeat upon Hartlepool.
The loanee has impressed during his time at Fratton Park, making 17 appearances – 14 of which have come alongside Burgess.
And even before Burgess’ injury, Cook had talked about keeping him longer.
‘We would like to keep him longer, of course, but that is up to parent clubs,’ said Cook.
‘Obviously, there would be a worry against him not playing. If we have a young lad out and not playing that is the concern, after all they are going out to play as such.
‘If they are not playing, it will always be flagged up.’