Whatmough poised to add to Awford’s England band

Jack Whatmough in action for Pompey against Southend on New Year's Day Picture: Joe Pepler
Jack Whatmough in action for Pompey against Southend on New Year's Day Picture: Joe Pepler
Conor Chaplin could start againsyt Plymouth. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey v Plymouth: pre-match talking points

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Andy Awford will today toast another one off his production line as Jack Whatmough makes his England bow.

The central defender is expected to line-up for Noel Blake’s under-18s against Croatia at St George’s Park (2pm), winning his first cap in the process.

It maintains a remarkable run for the Blues’ Academy set-up which has continued to flourish impressively amid the club’s crippling financial problems in recent times.

Sam Magri (31 caps), Adam Webster (seven caps) and Jed Wallace (one cap) have all emerged through Awford’s youth system to appear for England’s youngsters.

Now Whatmough, from Gosport, is following in their footsteps, capping a campaign which has also seen him make three appearances for Pompey’s first-team.

And for Awford, the Academy skipper’s progression also reflects favourably on a club who continues to produce England players, despite now being in the bottom division of the Football League.

‘When Sam and Adam first got into the set-up we were a Premier League and then a Championship club,’ said Awford.

‘So it’s still nice to get the recognition as a League Two club that we are doing things correctly.

‘Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for Jack and he deserves it. He’s a great kid, wants to learn, listens, a model pro and I’m really pleased for him.

‘But the profile of the club is important. We can’t offer certain things – as we all know – but what we can offer is good, honest staff, good people who tell the truth and do it the right way.

‘That has allowed us to keep the current crop in the system and we still have some very good footballers there.

‘The players were here in the system when we were in the Premier League.

‘For instance, Jack was a player at the under-14s four years ago when we were a Championship club, so the challenge for us was to keep the boys.

‘With the club being in decline because the first team fell through the leagues, the challenge as an Academy and me as Academy manager was to keep the signed players at our football club, and thankfully we have managed to do that.

‘That’s down to the people at the club, it’s the whole staff, they have done a fantastic job. Some aren’t here any more, some have moved on through administrations and things, but we thank them.

‘I am really proud and what we need to do now is to stay in the Football League and maintain Category 3 status from the Academy point of view.

‘Rather than what they did last time, where the team grows and left some kids behind, let’s all grow together and build as a football club.’

Magri, from Fratton, earned 30 of his 31 England youth caps while at Pompey, appearing at under-16, 17, 18 and 19 levels, before moving to QPR in August 2012.

He has been followed by Webster, the West Wittering youngster, who played against Italy at under-18 level in October 2012 and has gone on to make seven appearances, latterly with the under-19s.

Wallace, who joined the Academy late on from Lewes, made his England under-19 bow against Scotland in May 2013.

Awford added: ‘I saw the under-18s play Croatia in the first game on Monday and the majority of the players are from Premier League and Championship clubs.

‘There aren’t many in the bottom 10 of League Two, put it that way.’