Paul Cook assures young Pompey talent

Conor Chaplin in action against Mansfield at the tail end of last season Picture: Joe Pepler
Conor Chaplin in action against Mansfield at the tail end of last season Picture: Joe Pepler
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LOCAL, young talent will get their chance to shine at Pompey – according to new manager Paul Cook.

The former Chesterfield boss has been attempting to bolster his squad with some new senior professionals – with Michael Doyle the latest to be linked with a move – as he attempts to build a team capable of challenging for League Two promotion.

It’s important this club brings its own young lads through as well – it’s massive

Paul Cook

But with several local youngsters making the first-team breakthrough in recent times, Cook has stressed that their path will not be blocked.

Cook said: ‘It’s important this club brings its own young lads through as well – it’s massive.

‘Portsmouth fans want to see Portsmouth lads playing in the team.

‘I knew about a few of them myself already before I arrived and there is some good, young talent here.

‘They will get their opportunities and it’s up to them to take it.’

Jack Whatmough was a first-team regular at the age of 18 last season, before he suffered a knee injury towards the end of the campaign.

Adam Webster has yet to agree a new contract at the club but started to show that he is well capable of carving out a Pompey career after he was given a run in the side.

But they were not the only home-grown talents to be given an opportunity with the senior set-up, with another 18-year-old, Conor Chaplin, making nine appearances and scoring one goal after making his debut in December.

Highly-rated midfielder Ben Close impressed towards the end of the season under caretaker boss Gary Waddock.

Meanwhile, Adam May was another teenager to gain first-team recognition in the final few weeks of last season.

Cook will get his chance to assess the youngsters at close quarters in pre-season.

The 48-year-old has already made it clear that he is looking to work with a smaller squad this season, with some Academy graduates included in those plans.

But he knows he needs to strike the right balance, rather than being too reliant on either youth or experience.

He said: ‘In my opinion, we need to sign some senior players, we need some younger players and we need some players for the future.

‘Every good team has a good mix of ages to the squad.

‘I think there is a balance to be struck in everything we do.

‘And it’s just about what we feel is the correct balance – it’s not a criticism of anything that has gone on before in any shape or form.’

League Two is an unforgiving and physical division and the manager is clearly looking for players who can churn out the games over the course of the season.

Cook added: ‘There are a lot of things that we look at before we sign anyone.

‘Things like how many days people train, how fit they are and how fit they need to be on a Saturday to take them through the required number of games.

‘Everyone will need a break from time to time.

‘But to have a break, everyone must work hard and be able to play a lot of games.’