In-form Thorne makes Pompey tick

George Thorne
George Thorne
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Pompey midfielder Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Michael Appleton has known about him for a long time.

Trevor Brooking, the FA’s director of football development, has done his bit to talk up a talent who has continually impressed for England at age-group level.

And now Pompey fans are understanding what all the noise is about when it comes to George Thorne.

The 19-year-old is now 10 games into his second loan spell at Fratton Park, after an initial four-game stint was brought to a close by West Brom’s injury problems before Christmas.

Just how important the Chatham-born talent is to the Blues’ set-up has become increasingly evident in that time.

A calmness in possession and an ability to the read the game has made Thorne a key man of Appleton’s set-up.

The concern brought about by the sight of him leaving the weekend defeat to Burnley on crutches after picking up an ankle injury underlined that.

The hope is Thorne will be fit enough to return for the south coast showdown this weekend at St Mary’s.

The midfielder has excelled with Appleton using him in front of the back four in recent games.

The performances he has delivered in the position prove it’s a role which the midfielder is perfectly suited to.

Appleton said: ‘It was George’s best performance for us against Hull last week.

‘I think he was our best performer at Coventry as well.

‘People don’t see how he screens the ball for strikers and makes life difficult for them.

‘The Hull game was his best performance. He dictated the whole game. He ran the game.

‘What he does is give people like Joel Ward and Scott Allan the chance to go forward and create opportunities.

‘He gives us security in the middle of the park. I think his performances are getting better and better.

‘I thought he was good against Birmingham as well.

‘I think he had four very good games for us back in November and December when he was here with us.

‘Then he obviously returned to West Brom but he’s come back into the equation.

‘He screens the ball going into the front men very well.

‘The naked eye and the follower who loves Portsmouth wants them to win and follows the ball into the box but will miss a lot of his good work.

‘I’ve worked with the kid since he was 13 or 14 so I know all about him.’

Appleton has made no secret of his plan to build for the future on a foundation of youth.

The 36-year-old has already made major inroads on implementing that philosophy with the players he has brought to the club on loan.

Standing up to the pressure of a survival fight was always going to be a tester for those who have arrived.

Appleton believes the likes of Thorne have shown maturity beyond their years in that situation.

The Baggies man had made just two senior starts at the Hawthorns before being sent to gain experience with the Blues.

With the likes of Karim Rekik in the same boat, Appleton has been impressed with the level heads.

He said: ‘We talked before about the psychological side of things.

‘George has come back into the club when we’ve just had 10 points taken off and are losing players left, right and centre. So he’s come into a club which was a bit different to the one he left back in December.

‘From a psychological point of view, maybe it’s taken a while for us to not get the togetherness but that belief, I suppose. He’s not played that many league games so he’s shown a maturity.

‘Karim will do that as well and Scott. They are young players showing maturity beyond their years at the minute.’