Experts: Pompey striker Chaplin is a class act

Conor Chaplin, right, with Blues team-mate Carl Baker  Picture: Joe Pepler
Conor Chaplin, right, with Blues team-mate Carl Baker Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey fans enjoyed a 2-1 win on their last visit to the Memorial Stadium. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Jordan Cross talks to three football experts to get their opinion on Blues striker after Paul Cook dubs him ‘Football League’s finest’

Ian Darke – Pompey fan and TV commentator

I was a little surprised to hear Paul Cook state Conor Chaplin is the best finisher outside the Premier League.

I expect the likes of Billy Sharp, Dwight Gayle and one or two others would have something to say about that!

There are two ways to look at the Pompey boss making that suggestion after the Leyton Orient win.

He’s putting a bit of pressure on Chaplin by turning the spotlight on him – or it’s a great boost to the lad’s confidence to hear the manager publicly say that about him.

It may well be a calculated move on the boss’ part.

I disagree with most Pompey fans, though, in that I think he was right to take Conor out of the firing line when he did.

I know he had the ban for five yellow cards, so he had to take him out, but he didn’t put him back.

Like a lot of young players, I just think he was starting to look a little bit jaded. It might just prove to be a clever move as the season wears on.

The thing about Chaplin is you can’t play him as a lone striker. You’ve got to play him as part of ‘two’ if you’re going to use him.

In that scenario you need someone there who can take the weight off him or find the space for him to have an impact.

If that happens you are going to get goals from him.

He’s the best finisher we have at the club, no question about that.

Having said that, I remember him missing a few against Notts County a couple of months back.

Conor’s always the player on the end of those balls, though, which tells you something.

Good strikers never mind missing a few because they are the player who is in the right position every time.

He shouldn’t have to carry that load on his own, though, at this stage of his career.

People in recruitment are asking about him and, long term, Pompey aren’t going to keep him and will get a decent fee for him.

It’s either a case of holding out for now or, who knows, getting a smashing feel and going and getting a Danny Hylton type with the money.

Paul Hardyman – former Pompey player and coach

I use Conor as an example to other kids when I coach.

People in academies often use height as a factor to knock players and say they’re not big enough.

Conor is the perfect example that’s the biggest load of rubbish in the world.

I worked with Conor from when he was just going in the under-nines.

He was always in the top bunch of players in the group. Always.

He always had a fantastic attitude, too, which made him stand out among the other boys.

Conor was a real worker and still is today, but he has the ability to beat players.

Size has never mattered to Conor. The bigger the opponents were the more he enjoyed playing against them. He still has that mentality now.

For me, there’s a lot of similarities between Conor and Jermain Defoe.

They are similar in stature and I think they both take a size five boot!

Maybe Conor has a better ability to go past players but they are very similar in style.

We were lucky to have Jermain pop up with important goals, and Conor’s doing the same.

I really hope Pompey can hold on to the kid, but I know a lot of people are talking about him.

I was scouting for Birmingham and I recommended him to them and Gary Rowett.

I’m 99.9 per cent there are clubs still interested in him.

Whenever I was at games people were asking me about him all the time.

When I was at Pompey he was always one of the first on the training ground and last to leave.

There were times when I literally had to drag him off the pitch because I worried about him doing too much and getting injured.

He’s bubbly and has always been a chirpy little character.

I remember I gave him his under-19 debut against Crawley.

I played him on the right wing and told him I wanted him to cut in and use his left foot to score.

Within five minutes that’s exactly what he did. He just looked across the pitch at me with a big grin on his face.

We took him in the under-18s when he was an under-16. Size was never an issue then and it’s not now - he’s got a great career ahead of him.

Ray Crawford - ex-Blues and England striker

I think we’re going to have a job on our hands keeping hold of Conor Chaplin.

There’s bound to be a lot of interest in the lad the way he’s been playing since coming into the first-team picture at Fratton Park.

Conor is a lad who gets most of his shots on target. So he’s clearly been coached well as he’s developed through the age groups at Pompey.

You see so many shots these days when they go three yards over or wide and we stand and applaud them.

That doesn’t test the keeper, though.

Whenever Conor shoots he tests the keeper – and you’ve always got a chance with a lad like that.

I was a bit surprised to hear Mr Cook say in The News we’ve got the best finisher outside of the Premier League, though.

That’s fair enough to say, but if that’s the case why isn’t he playing more?

I also wonder why the youngster gets brought off all the time.

He got taken off at the weekend against Leyton Orient when he could have got a hat-trick.

I don’t think Conor has completed 90 minutes this season!

I still think we need a front man who can work and open up things for Conor.

But we’ve definitely got a job on our hands keeping hold of Conor.

I look around where I sit in the South Stand and see all the scouts there making notes.

They are all watching him and his performances.

I think with Conor’s goalscoring quality we will be hard pushed to hold on to him being in the division we’re in.

They may say he can go if we don’t get promotion this year, but I can’t see us keeping him for too long with the form he’s in.

Having said that, I’d hope he stayed for the season – even if a deal’s done.

We all know Conor’s a goalscorer.

He’s always been a goalscorer, so he needs to be in the side. I think he’s the only natural finisher we’ve got.

His ratio of scoring seven goals from 10 starts is good. For me that’s very good.

We desperately need a goalscorer and we need him in the side, because Conor’s a little gem.