Conor Chaplin pinpoints key influence when Portsmouth future was in doubt

Conor Chaplin in action for Pompey Academy. Picture: Allan Hutchings
Conor Chaplin in action for Pompey Academy. Picture: Allan Hutchings
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Conor Chaplin has paid tribute to the influence of Mikey Harris on his career.

And the striker has highlighted the lengthy list of Pompey names who’ve helped develop him into a poacher of promise.

Former Pompey youth team manager Mikey Harris. Picture: Joe Pepler

Former Pompey youth team manager Mikey Harris. Picture: Joe Pepler

Chaplin thanked Harris for showing faith in him after he suffered injury problems which put his Blues future in doubt.

The former academy coach, who is now with Brighton, helped the graduate get his career on track after back problems led to him fearing he’d miss out on a contract.

Chaplin said: ‘Mikey Harris was massive for me.

‘During the first year of my scholarship I was injured pretty much the whole year.

Conor Chaplin at Cheltenham Town in 2014. Picture: Joe Pepler

Conor Chaplin at Cheltenham Town in 2014. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘I had a bad back from going into training every day.

‘My body couldn’t cope with it straightaway. It took about nine months to adjust.

‘My body was breaking down because I wasn’t used to that volume of training.

‘Then Mikey came in for my second year and I was thinking I needed to really do something to get a pro contract.

‘But as soon as I came back under Mikey he put a lot of faith in me.

‘He led me to believe I was a really good player and knew regardless of anything I would work hard.

‘He wasn’t worried about giving me freedom because he knew I wouldn’t stroll about. He knew I’d put a shift in.

‘That was some of the best football I played and I got my pro deal in the October.

‘I really only had two or three months of scholarship football before I got my deal. I was scoring for fun. Every time I went on the pitch I knew I was going to score.

‘I was so comfortable with Mikey. We’re really good friends. When I lived in Barnham he stayed at my house a lot because he was commuting from Southampton to Brighton.

‘I talk to him a lot and I know we’ll always get on. It’s a bit strange he was my manager and we’re really good friends now but I owe him a lot.’

Chaplin pinpointed a host of other influences on his Pompey career and the continuing success of the academy from which he emerged.

He added: ‘There’s a lot of people. Andy Awford and Paul Hardyman were my first youth-team coaches.

‘Mark Kelly was my youth-team manager when Awfs went but before that he was someone I spoke to a lot.

‘I think Kels loved me and he knew I had that respect for him. John Slater (head of education and welfare) was integral as well. Not just for me but all the lads.

‘He was integral to my work ethic and had a big impact on my time at Pompey.

‘He’s a father figure to a lot of people inside the club and someone you can trust with your life. That’s hard to find in this game.

‘These people have helped make the academy the success story it is.’