Michael Appleton insists teenage talent Ashley Harris will not be rushed in his Pompey development as he declared: We will keep him up our sleeve.
The 17-year-old, pictured above, made a match-winning impact in the Blues’ 3-0 win at Crawley on Sunday.
The second-half substitute netted the opener and laid on the third goal for Izale McLeod, earning him the man-of-the-match award from the Sky Sports pundits for his 20-minute cameo.
But while there are once again calls from fans for the Purbrook ace to be handed a start – at home to Walsall on Saturday – Blues boss Appleton is determined to stick to his guns, hold him back and use him as an impact substitute.
Appleton explained: ‘Ashley will be desperate to start in as many games as he possibly can, which I understand, but I look at the impact he has had coming off the bench for us.
‘In the game he started against Bournemouth, he did okay without setting it alight.
‘But at Crawley he came off the bench and he sparked us on to another level.
‘By the time he comes on, the game is a bit more stretched. He doesn’t have someone marking him as tightly or kicking lumps out of him quite as much.
‘Whether we start him or whether he comes on at half-time or after 70 minutes, if he keeps igniting the team as he has done the past couple of times, we will keep him up our sleeve.
‘And if we think he should start the game, he will do that.’
Harris’ early-season contribution has been one of the few positives for Pompey, with two goals to his name so far.
But Appleton has urged supporters not to get carried away by their latest home-grown hero.
‘He’s a young boy, he’s only 17 and it will be a natural progression with Ashley,’ said Appleton.
‘Eventually, he will become a regular in the team, whether that is this season or next.
‘He will score a lot of goals and do really well for us but we shouldn’t expect too much too soon from him.
‘He’s a good kid, I’ve spoken to him regularly and he understands his part in the squad.
‘And I’ve been impressed with his maturity in knowing the position and knowing how we want to play.
‘Sometimes you throw a kid in and you just want him to go out there and express himself.
‘But he is really understanding how I want him to play in those wide positions, when to come off the line and when to hold his position on the touchline.
‘You’ve only got to see the past few games to see the timing of his runs has got much better.’
While Harris played most of his youth football as a central striker, Appleton believes he is better suited to a wide role.
‘For a small lad, he’s got a good spring and if you play in those wide positions you get a bigger picture of the pitch,’ added Appleton.
‘And he’s good at making those darting runs across opponents who are much bigger than him.
‘The one thing that stood out for me when I first saw him play in the FA Youth Cup was his shooting ability.
‘And if we can get him coming off the line and letting rip with his right foot, he will be a big asset for us.’