Jack Whatmough has been told: This is your time.
That is the message delivered by Kenny Jackett after handing over a regular first-team spot.
If he can now finish this season strongly with as many game as possible, it will do him the world of good going into next seasonKenny Jackett
The Gosport youngster made his Pompey bow in November 2013, yet encouraging progress has been hampered by injury.
The ever-determined Whatmough battled back to feature in the Blues’ last two line-ups, despite the fear he wouldn’t play again this season following knee surgery.
Last weekend’s 2-0 victory at Oldham effectively saw him replace Christian Burgess in a two-man central defence alongside Matt Clarke.
Still only 21, he now has the opportunity to forge a first-team presence for the remaining nine fixtures.
And Pompey’s boss is seeking for Whatmough to finally establish himself.
Jackett said: ‘There’s a capable player there who just needs to keep working hard and be as diligent as he can with his body.
‘After that I suppose he could do with a little bit of luck with the injuries. He could do with a few years of fitness and freedom to be able to build his career.
‘Jack’s been around for a number of seasons and I think he is ready to put that run together.
‘Over the next few years should be his time.
‘You can see with players where they have talent and are good players but it has to be their time.
‘You see that at every club, a player has some ability and probably will do it somewhere at some stage.
‘Jack has enough experience and is old enough to say the upcoming seasons should be his time – imposing himself, holding down a first-team place and doing well for the club.
‘Earlier in the season he was playing on the left-hand side when Clarke was out, which was a little bit tougher for him but he still had good games.
‘Now he’s back in the side again and looking strong.’
Whatmough has appeared 59 times and scored once for the Blues since emerging through the Academy.
He started the opening seven matches of the campaign in the groin-injury absence of Clarke, only to receive a setback. In September, he was forced to undergo a knee operation and initially expected to be sidelined for the rest of the season.
However, Whatmough’s comeback defied the doctors.
Jackett added: ‘His early return has been a bonus.
‘It is not something we necessarily planned because of the nature of his injuries over the last couple of years.
‘It’s a very, very hard situation to read.
‘But he’s a very positive lad and always working hard.
‘He has got over this particular injury very well physically and mentally.
‘Jack has come back earlier than expected.
‘If he can now finish this season strongly with as many game as possible, it will do him the world of good going into next season.’