The talented teenage trio assured they are Pompey’s future

Young Pompey defender Jack Whatmough Picture; Joe Pepler

Young Pompey defender Jack Whatmough Picture; Joe Pepler

Loyalty set to be Cook’s Pompey policy in League One

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A Skrill Premier performer, a crocked left-back and a fringe Academy player.

This is not their season – but their time is coming.

Richie Barker may be attempting to steer Pompey away from the League Two relegation zone’s gravitational pull at present.

Regardless, he has drawn up tentative plans beyond the current campaign – a blueprint centred on progression in the bottom tier of the Football League.

Contained within are Adam Webster, Dan Butler and Jack Whatmough – a talented teenage trio he is committed to involving in his Pompey ambitions.

None of them made Barker’s squad for the mid-week victory at Wycombe, which yielded only a second league away triumph of the season.

Not that it was even remotely possible, of course, to include Webster and Butler, who are presently omitted from first-team selection for entirely different reasons.

Just over a week ago, Webster rejoined Aldershot on loan and will remain there for the rest of the season, racking up crucial appearances to enhance his on-going development.

Meanwhile, Butler sustained medial knee ligament damage at the start of December, also during a loan spell with the Shots.

The unfortunate setback was also untimely, occurring shortly before Barker was named as Guy Whittingham’s replacement, robbing him of the chance to observe the youngster in training.

Still, on Monday, the 19-year-old had his knee brace removed to signal the next crucial step in his attempts to return to first-team consideration at Fratton Park.

As for Whatmough, the 17-year-old was handed his senior debut against Southend at Fratton Park in November – when Andy Awford stepped up from the Academy to become caretaker boss – and then played in the goalless draw at Hartlepool.

He has slipped out of the frame of late, though.

His sole appearance under Barker arrived at Southend’s Roots Hall on New Year’s Day when asked to perform in a defensive-midfield role – and he has made only two match-day squads since before today.

The arrival of Ben Chorley on an 18-month contract to strengthen the central-defensive pool has unquestionably nudged the Gosport youngster further to the back of the queue.

In addition, the player Whatmough replaced in the heart of the back four for those two starts under Awford – Joe Devera – is presently enjoying the best spell of his Pompey career. By some distance.

All three may not be under consideration at this precise moment, but Barker has emphatically stressed he wants them in what he sees as a streamlined set-up next season.

Local, home-grown talent earmarked for regular opportunities in a squad already announced by the Blues boss to contain no more than 22 players, ideally.

They may be out of the frame at present, yet these products of Andy Awford’s Academy will survive an anticipated summer cull and form the future of the club moving forwards.

And to achieve that, Webster will receive a new contract, as revealed by The News on Thursday, while Butler and Whatmough still have more than a year remaining on their existing deals.

Of their youthful contemporaries, you can disregard Jed Wallace remaining. He, inevitably, will leave Fratton Park this summer when his contract expires.

As a free agent with any fee to be set by a tribunal, he will not struggle for offers – and from clubs in higher divisions to Pompey, such as admirers Wolves and Peterborough.

Then there is Ashley Harris, whose 63 minutes on the pitch this season – coming in the one match – tells its own story, even if they did arrive when Barker was in charge.

Loan spells at the Hawks and Chelmsford were not as successful as all would have hoped and the forward instead is now a regular in Pompey development group games.

The development group actually consists of just five first-year professionals – Liam Triggs, Jack Maloney, Nick Awford, George Branford and Josh Warren.

Full-back Triggs and midfielder Branford have spent loan time at AFC Totton this season, while Awford has been at Gosport and Chelmsford.

Maloney had a frustrating spell at Aldershot, and Warren sustained knee ligament damage at Chelmsford to rule him out for the rest of the season.

Decisions must be made by Barker whether to grant the quintet new deals and allow them more time to be nurtured and developed.

The brutal truth is, however, none have consistently come close to the first-team this season.

Although, Maloney did make a brief substitute appearance in the Southend home defeat when Awford was caretaker manager.

As for the development group they are purported to be part of, it lacks playing numbers and a designated coach to really flourish.

Only this week they faced Bournemouth in a fixture on the same day the first-team travelled to Wycombe for a match.

It contained Harris, Whatmough and four of the first-year professionals.

The remainder of the side were 15 and 16 year-old scholars, with the odd 17-year-old also thrown in.

Bournemouth named ex-Pompey player Sam Magri as a triallist among a squad of 19-21 year olds to emphasise the contrast as they won 4-0.

In terms of a concept, it is something Barker believes in and, if handled correctly, a development group can be a crucial buffer between the Academy and the first-team.

As it stands, though, Pompey’s manager has concerns over its effectiveness in its current format, an existence hampered by finances and the league environment as ever.

More decisions for Barker to come to – although he has already made up his mind over Webster, Butler and Whatmough.

It has been a harsh campaign for Butler following the immense promise shown last term, which culminated in a new two-year deal.

He ended up being the fall guy after errors against Oxford and Bournemouth in the opening two matches – dropping to the bench, with Danny East, Marcos Painter and then Devera preferred.

He’ll be challenging for the left-back spot next season – while Barker sees Webster as a full-back as well as in his favoured central-defensive role.

Finally, Whatmough has shown he can operate as a centre-half as well as central midfielder.

Pompey fans – and Barker – will be seeing plenty more of them in 2014-15.

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