Fledgling Pompey aces rack up most minutes in League One

MOST POMPEY fans would agree that Matt Clarke and Ben Close both enjoyed fine campaigns last season. 

On the road to the Blues’ eighth-place finish in League One, both were regulars under Kenny Jackett and made hurtling progress.

And in the third tier last term, no player born in 1996 registered more minutes than the duo.

The Pompey pair also finished in the top four of players born in 1996 and after, with Clarke again topping the list. 

Despite missing the opening weeks of the season with a calf injury, Clarke racked up 3,780 minutes in League One.

The former Ipswich talent featured 42 times in League One, scoring twice, with his form catching the eye of a bevy of Premier League and Championship outfits.

Pompey defender Matt Clarke

Pompey defender Matt Clarke

Behind him on 3,401 minutes was his Fratton Park team-mate Close, who finished fourth in the 1996-and-after category.

The Southsea ace kept of Danny Rose and Stuart O’Keefe on the sidelines and played 40 League One matches in Pompey’s engine room, finding the net on two occasions.

 Jackett wasn’t afraid to unleash all of his fledgling talents in the league last season and the amount of pitch time his under-21 troops recorded highlights thats

In total, they registered 13,778 minutes in League One overall – the most in League One.

Second behind Pompey were Walsall (13,241), with Doncaster third (12,276). 

Contributing to that figure alongside Close and Clarke was Jack Whatmough. 

Despite spending more than six months on the sidelines with a knee injury, the Gosport talent won a spot in Jackett’s rearguard when he returned to full fitness.

The 21-year-old made nine straight starts before a groin tear against Charlton curtailed his campaign. 

Although he was frustrated by a lack of opening line-up places, Conor Chaplin was still involved in 26 matches, netting five goals.

Anton Walkes also made 12 appearances after arriving on loan from Spurs in January.

Also worth noting was the amount of game time under-21 players, excluding loanees, gained last term.

The Blues’ figure in that category added up to 11,778. A significant margin behind was Doncaster (10,526), while Walsall (8,461) were third. 

When Jackett took the Fratton Park hot seat, he said he wouldn’t be afraid to utilise his younger players – and the stats prove that.