Why Cambridge & Co know all about Jed Wallace

Jed Wallace opens the scoring against Cambridge. Picture: Joe Pepler
Jed Wallace opens the scoring against Cambridge. Picture: Joe Pepler
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The voice squeezed its way through the congested Abbey Stadium press box.

‘Who is Jed Wallace?’ came the confused cry.

The exclamation wasn’t weighed with sarcasm, there was no mocking tone, certainly not a hint of ridicule contained within.

The query actually emanated from a Cambridge United fan present, confused after straining her ear to the line-ups being announced.

It seems she mistook this mysterious Wallace character for being part of the U’s starting XI. The realisation of her error thankfully not taking too long to dawn.

Of course, 90 minutes later every Cambridge fan gathered within the ground knew all about Jed Wallace.

With a hand in five of the goals inflicted on Richard Money’s side in that day’s 6-2 hammering, the 20-year-old was the chief destroyer.

An inspirational individual performance which underpinned yesterday’s recognition of Wallace as League Two’s player of the month for February.

The first accolade in the fledgling career of a midfielder whose staggering early impact at Pompey continues to gather pace.

The facts are since making his Football League debut in January 2013, Wallace has been involved in 34.15 per cent of Pompey’s goals in matches he has featured.

But still there are some among his club’s own supporters who require convincing.

Opinions focus on his tendency to go it alone, often unable to perceive the presence of his team-mates situated in more dangerous positions.

There are views which highlight his trait at playing at break-neck speed while his footballing brain lags behind in its slipstream gasping for a pause.

Meanwhile, criticism has been levied at the sheer bloody-mindedness of his insistence at playing the lone hero on occasions his side requires rescuing, rather than following a team pattern.

Perfectly valid concerns over Wallace’s game, granted.

And certainly aspects necessitating improvement if he is to maintain his excellent progress.

Of course, others overstep the boundaries, particularly on Twitter, when at one stage last season he took a break having received abuse from a small minority of Blues fans.

Even recently, when his penalty was missed against Exeter, several offensive tweets were flung in Wallace’s direction seconds later.

When he netted the last-minute winner, they had been deleted.

Such is the knee-jerk nature of football as it collides with the social media environment.

Yet for any doubts surrounding the former Lewes man’s contribution to Pompey, the statistics make an emphatically positive point.

Basically, in terms of scoring and assists, Wallace is responsible for more than a third of the Blues’ goals in matches he has played in over the past two years and two months.

Totalling 110 appearances, he has netted 27 times – three from the spot – and provided 15 assists.

That is a direct involvement in 42 of the 123 goals scored in matches the midfielder has featured in.

Putting it into context, over the same period the Fratton faithful have witnessed a procession of players marching into the club, among them plenty of attacking midfielders.

Thery Racon spent two spells at Fratton Park, making 32 appearances, yet failed to register a single goal or assist. He barely mustered a shot.

Ricky Holmes was a divisive figure even before his switch to Northampton, yet grabbed 12 assists and two goals during his 62 games.

No League Two player registered as many assists as him last term, although he managed only one for the Blues in the current campaign before his January departure.

Andy Barcham’s time has been checked by injury, although he has still managed 50 matches – albeit 24 of those have been from the bench.

Regardless, during that period he has scored four goals and conjured up two assists.

Miles Storey, essentially a striker, also operated in wide positions in a season-long loan that was ended abruptly by Andy Awford at the halfway stage.

Yet he managed three goals and five assists in 22 appearances for Pompey and is currently on loan to Newport County from Swindon Town.

Interestingly, nine weeks after Storey’s departure, he remains joint-top assist-maker along with Wallace on five.

Worth pointing out, Wallace was officially credited with three assists from last month’s Cambridge match, having previously this season created twice.

Inevitably, it is that immense level of contribution which will surely see Pompey struggle to retain their prized asset when the current League Two campaign draws to a close.

The odds of his exit will shorten considerably should they also fail to gain promotion via any route during the remaining months.

Scouts focusing on Wallace have long been a fixture at Pompey matches, with a representative from MK Dons present at Northampton on Tuesday night.

The youngster did, of course, turn down the chance to move to Peterborough in January 2014, while he signed a new three-year deal with the Blues last summer.

Had it not been for the presence of Awford – his former Academy boss – Wallace wouldn’t have stayed at all, no question of that.

Still, the 20-year-old is no longer a hidden gem, his performances for Pompey during three different campaigns have ensured that.

There may still be doubters among the Fratton ranks, rigidly unswayed by the statistics. That is their opinion, that is their right.

In the meantime, the word is spreading about Jed Wallace – just ask Cambridge.