Pompey: England pair will see the benefit

Adam Webster, far left, turns to Pompey team-mate Jack Whatmough after scoring against Hartlepool at the tail end of the season Picture: Barry Zee
Adam Webster, far left, turns to Pompey team-mate Jack Whatmough after scoring against Hartlepool at the tail end of the season Picture: Barry Zee
Carl Baker. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Andy Awford has told his young defensive duo: Don’t be downhearted at missing out on England duty.

Jack Whatmough was joined by Adam Webster in the under-19 set-up for a training camp under former Blues defender Noel Blake.

The England coach called the pair into his preliminary squad ahead of three vital European qualifying fixtures against Montenegro, Ukraine and Scotland.

But after trimming the number down to 18 for the matches, both Whatmough and Webster were deemed surplus to requirements.

Awford expects his Academy graduates, who made a big first-team impact towards the end of the campaign, to feel a tinge of disappointment that they are now only on stand-by.

But the Pompey boss believes they will have gained plenty of useful experience from training with players who are pushing to make the breakthrough with their clubs in the Premier League.

Awford said: ‘It was a great experience for both of them to train with players a step up in levels.

‘I was up there at St George’s Park and watched a couple of their training sessions.

‘I thought the pair of them did really well but you could also see it was a big step up from playing for the under-18s in terms of the quality they were up against.

‘It will definitely help them with their development, though.

‘Now they are on stand-by for the games and if they get called in, I’m sure they will equip themselves well.

‘I think they are disappointed not to make the 18-man squad.

‘Once you get that close and you get a taste, it is only natural that you want to be involved with the matches.

‘But I don’t think they were expecting to be called up in the first place.

‘So if they had been selected, it would have been a great surprise for them.’

Awford also explained that their call-ups were largely to give the England coach some cover ahead of a high-profile Academy clash.

‘They were invited to the training camp because there was a Manchester United v Chelsea youth game, so some of those players involved with that were not available for England,’ said Awford.

‘So Blakey pulled a few players in so that if he needed them, it wouldn’t be totally new to them.

‘It was a good strategy.’

It says much for Pompey’s Academy that even under the huge financial constraints of recent seasons they can still produce two players who are on the England international radar.

Awford said: ‘I was delighted for the pair of them. Jack is still a year younger and could still play in the under-18s so hopefully will be able to play in the England under-19s next year.

‘Adam probably came back to us a little bit too late in the season to be in the reckoning for a full squad call-up.

‘But I felt he came back and did well.

‘He was a big part of what we achieved towards the end of the season.

‘I am grateful to England, their scouts and Blakey that they have kept him in and around the set-up.

‘There are not many League Two clubs who will have players knocking on the door of the England under-19s.

‘The players have done really well and we should also take it as a big compliment as a club.’