Checkatrade Trophy has helped Kenny Jackett map out Portsmouth youngsters’ future

Kenny Jackett will name a full-strength Pompey team at Wembley.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 3:28 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 3:36 pm
Haji Mnoga featured three times for Pompey en route to Wembley. Picture: Joe Pepler
Haji Mnoga featured three times for Pompey en route to Wembley. Picture: Joe Pepler

But en route to the Checkatrade Trophy final, the Blues boss hasn't shied away from blooding fledgling talent into his side.

And they haven’t let him down.

In total, Jackett handed six promising prospects their debuts.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

First-year professional Dan Smith and Matt Casey made their professional bows, while academy players Haji Mnoga, Bradley Lethbridge, Freddie Read and Leon Maloney were also given appearances.

As a consequence, Smith has moved to League of Ireland side Cork City on loan until the end of June, while Mnoga won a maiden England under-17 cap.

And Jackett carefully monitored the youngsters’ performances in the competition as he plans for the future.

The Pompey manager said: ‘It does help (to see what players will be like in the future) and whether they can handle integrating the players you know very well.

Haji Mnoga featured three times for Pompey en route to Wembley. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘For them as well, it’s excellent experience.

‘For Haji to get first-team games at 16 is terrific. It’s a good achievement, good experience and something you have to use in the right way.

‘Haji has got in and around the England under-17 team, which is a credit to him.

‘It’s good for him and all of us inside the club.

Pick up our Sports Mail Checkatrade Trophy special on Saturday

‘Matt Casey has played very well in the competition, Dan Smith in a couple of positions as well. He had a spell at right-back at Southend.

‘Freddie Read and Leon Maloney haven’t had quite as much game time but they’ve still had a taste of it and that’s good for them.’

The current Checkatrade Trophy format, which includes under-21 teams from clubs with Category One academies, is maligned by large sections of the Fratton faithful.

However, Jackett feels the current concept has given Pompey the scope to hand upcoming players valuable minutes and aid their development. 

He added: ‘The competition’s format is a good one.

‘People talk about opportunities for young players and how the better young player at academies will get experience.

‘This competition is one way and it’s not just that.

‘We want to develop our own players as much as everyone else and the rules have been slightly relaxed this season.

‘You have to pick some of your established players but there are spaces to pick, at the right time, two or three younger players in.

‘It’s been good for us in that way, without having to made wholesale changes.

‘It’s just as important for us to produce players as everyone else.

‘Although we’re a League One club with a Category Three academy, we still want those players to come through.’