Pompey’s smiling assassin is refusing to rest on his laurels

Conor Chaplin. Picture: Joe Pepler

Conor Chaplin. Picture: Joe Pepler

Carl Baker celebrates scoring. Photo by Joe Pepler/Digital South.

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His play is possessed by a delightful abandon, a natural spirit unshackled, spontaneity dripping through his boots – and that smile.

Conor Chaplin’s refreshing exuberance thankfully remains uncurbed, despite now tallying 57 appearances in his footballing infancy.

I always try to smile during the game because this career doesn’t last for too long

Conor Chaplin

He has long been a Fratton favourite, yet there is no undertone of bristling ego or self-engulfing self-admiration.

For a 19-year-old, he remains impossibly grounded, mature beyond his years and, with three goals in his last four matches, continues to demonstrate dazzling talent.

The teenager with 15 career goals to his name is bossing his Pompey playground with enviable ease.

Chaplin said: ‘I always try to smile during the game because this career doesn’t last for too long.

‘You look at people at the top level playing with a smile on their face and it is so refreshing, so I like to try to make sure I am enjoying my football.

‘The gaffer tells me not to get too high when you are high and too low when you are low and it is probably one of the most valuable bits of advice I have ever been given.

‘You can get carried away with things and agree with your own press but I never really like to believe in it.

‘Your attitude should be about proving yourself – to prove yourself to other people and prove yourself to yourself.

‘You should always strive for greatness, to be better, and that is something I certainly would like to do.

‘In this game it is easy to get an ego. I like to think my family have brought me up to be the lad I am today, which is level-headed and grounded.

‘That is to down to my family and how I am at home, they keep me in check.

‘I recently read in The News how I had scored in three successive seasons for Pompey and that is the first time I’ve ever thought of it.

‘For a moment you think “To be fair, that is quite decent at 19”.

‘But I don’t want to rest on that now, I want to get more goals and more goals and keep going.’

Having been restricted to cameo turns from the bench this season, Chaplin has now started the last two Blues matches.

Pitted against the standard imposing League Two central-defensive units, upon first impression it appears a physical mismatch.

Yet for the youngster, they are encounters he relishes.

He added: ‘I probably prefer playing against bigger lads rather than smaller centre halves who are more athletic.

‘I like to think I am short and nippy, able to make little one-twos, which those types really don’t like playing against.

‘With Robbo behind me I can make short and sharp runs.

‘I know he is going to find me and pick out a pass and big defenders hate movement from strikers.

‘You need to look at strikers like Messi and Aguero to see that small strikers can play against big defenders.

‘I know I can play against anyone. I know what I am capable of and what I can do.

‘I’m just happy to get on to the pitch and showcase.’

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