Pompey’s forgotten man has been told he must use reserve football to fire himself back into the first-team frame.
Paul McCallum made a surprise return to the Blues’ squad for their 2-2 draw against Cheltenham Town on Tuesday night.
Paul needs as much game time as possible and there are a lot of reserve games coming up.Andy Awford
His 86th-minute appearance was a first since the high-profile dismissal against Southend – 11 matches ago.
Yet the 21-year-old still faces a battle to force his way past in-form duo Matt Tubbs and Ryan Taylor during a loan spell which has failed to ignite.
Andy Awford, however, has stressed the onus is on the West Ham striker to impress, particularly in reserve outings.
McCallum played 45 minutes for the reserves in yesterday’s 6-1 hammering of Gillingham, netting alongside Craig Westcarr, Conor Chaplin (two), Bradley Tarbuck and Adam May
And Awford has challenged the West Ham man to use such occasions to shine with nine first-team fixtures remaining.
Pompey’s boss said: ‘Paul needs as much game time as possible and there are a lot of reserve games coming up.
‘Don’t get me wrong, if I needed to play Paul McCallum tomorrow I would but at the moment the onus is on him and I have said that before.
‘He has got to work hard out on the training pitch, force his way into the squad and then the team – that is the challenge.
‘He has trained fine, no problems whatsoever, but the team is doing well and there are only 11 players.
‘It’s like all of them, if you are not playing in the first-team that is what the reserves are for.
‘You have seen Andy Barcham coming into the team having previously played for the reserves. Those matches have helped him to get his performance levels up, which is important.
‘Adam Webster has also regularly appeared for the reserves and come into the frame when looking for somebody to take Paul Robinson’s position.
‘That is what those matches are for, it’s not a punishment to play in the reserves, it is there for a reason.’
McCallum has totalled only 44 minutes of first-team football following his loan arrival more than two months ago.
It is an absence from the side underpinned by a seven-match ban following a red card against Southend.
The striker was given an automatic three-match suspension, followed by an additional four for violent conduct.
The second part of the ban also extended to reserve fixtures, so McCallum trained with West Ham.
But he returned against Gillingham, while there are another six matches over the next month.
Awford added: ‘Paul is no different, they all need to play in the reserves for the requirements for the first-team whether it comes about through injury, suspension, loss of form or whatever.’