Forget playing in the FA Youth Cup at Fratton Park or facing Everton at Goodison - US Portsmouth's unlikely FA Vase run tops the lot for Jack Chandler

Jack Chandler featured at Fratton Park in the FA Youth Cup during his days with Pompey Academy, and even played against an Everton side including Republic of Ireland international Seamus Coleman in the Premier League Cup.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 8:58 am
Updated Friday, 30th April 2021, 9:11 am
Jack Chandler, left, in action for US Portsmouth during last week's FA Vase fifth round win at Tavistock. Picture: Martyn White.

Still, nothing quite compares to the extraordinary FA Vase run he's presently enjoying with US Portsmouth.

Full-back Chandler, 21, and his team-mates are just two wins from Wembley and preparing to host Hellenic League Premier outfit Flackwell Heath in the quarter-finals on Saturday.

But prior to his Pompey release at 18, the Southsea lad would have been forgiven for thinking he'd probably never play a Vase tie in his career.

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Jack Chandler in action for Pompey Reserves against AFC Wimbledon Reserves at Privett Park, January 30, 2018. Picture: Colin Farmery

It's a competition that surely would not have even crossed his mind when he was turning out for the Blues Academy in an FA Youth Cup third round tie in December 2016 - or playing in the Premier League Cup for Pompey in a 3-0 defeat to Everton at Goodison Park two years later.

But, if he didn't before, Chandler knows exactly what the FA Vase is about and how much it means now.

In fact, the right-back - who netted in his side's fifth round win at Tavistock last weekend - reckons turning out for USP this weekend will top everything he's done in his career to date.

He said: ‘We’re buzzing. To get this far is like something you dream of - little old USP in the last-eight is just mental.

'It’s the thing that you dream of, FA Vase last-eight.

‘When the cup games are coming up you think, ‘brilliant, we’ll have a laugh and have a good day out and stuff,’ we’re now two games away from Wembley - and it’s do-able.

‘I played in the FA Youth Cup at Fratton Park and played at Goodison Park in the Premier League Cup. Seamus Coleman was playing and I let the boys know that quite a lot - I’ve had some good experiences.

‘This is the top, definitely, especially if we reach Wembley - I think I’ll retire after that match!'

Life is pretty different these days for Chandler from his time as a scholar at Pompey.

He briefly had a crack in the professional game on the back of his Blues release, but soon returned home after a three-month stay with Swedish second tier side AFC Eskilstuna.

These days Chandler works as a scaffolder and trains two evenings a week with USP.

But this Vase run has at least made him feel like a professional again, with fellow site workers recognising him and asking him about USP's incredible run.

Chandler revealed: 'I had to find a job so I work Monday to Friday until 5 o’clock everyday scaffolding and then Tuesday and Thursday training. I thought that would have just been my routine.

‘Now, to be two games away from Wembley, I’m walking around the site and everyone is speaking about it - I don’t even know them.

‘It was really hard to deal with (Pompey release), I’m not going to lie about it.

‘I feel that it’s made me stronger and made me more of a man. I’ve had to do it the hard way, I’ve dropped all the way down, but now I feel like I’m rebuilding and I’m really confident again in my football.'