Jack Whatmough can make a Pompey first-team return this season.
Kenny Jackett lauded the quality of the defender’s comeback this week after five months on the sidelines.
Whatmough returned from his latest knee issue ahead of schedule with a 45-minute Premier League Cup outing on Tuesday.
And what Jackett saw at Nyewood Lane convinced him the Gosport lad has a realistic chance of playing competitive senior football this season.
He said: ‘I think it’s realistic (to get back into the first team before the end of the season) looking at him now. I see no reason why he can’t, looking at him in training, too.
‘He played very well and we were disappointed to take him off. He was making a big difference.
‘In the first half he looked like a man in a boy’s game – and that was against one of the best academies.
‘The players they had out were good players with pedigree, so Jack did well in the first 45 minutes.
‘He’s shown a great attitude to get back early, as he has. We’ll give him every chance and opportunity because it’s been a tough career for him.
‘But it’s also been a very promising career and I was impressed with him in the few games he played at the start of the season.
‘He’ll make a full recovery and we wish him all the best.’
Whatmough’s strength of character to come back from three periods out with knee injuries has quite rightly earned widespread praise.
Jackett echoed that sentiment but, more significantly, feels you wouldn’t realise the 21-year-old had been through such turmoil when you watch him in action.
He said: ‘Jack doesn’t overcomplicate it (his rehab) and gets on with it. His determination level is high.
‘He’s had a number of weeks’ training and we can’t hold him back. He has to get in there and play. That’s where it is.
‘Sometimes when people come back from long-term injuries they can look quite tentative in training or not at the pace.
‘That’s not been the case with Jack. If you don’t know about his injury you wouldn’t be able to spot it. That’s a very good thing.’
Whatmough is now pencilled in to play an in-house game at Pompey’s training ground on Thursday but Jackett warned he will have to exercise a degree of caution despite his eagerness to play.
‘We’ll make sure he gets every chance,’ said the boss.
‘With a long-term injury, it’s not always about the injury – it’s about the rest of your body.
‘Many people come back with a knee injury and then pull a muscle because the rest of their body isn’t used to the play.
‘So you try to, as far as you can, get consistency and upward projections of the work they do and the games they have. Then you give them the best chance.
‘But, for Jack anyway, it’s a compliment that if you didn’t know about his injury record in training you wouldn’t be able to pick it out. That’s quite often the gauge I work off as manager.’