Pompey youngster faces race to impress

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Steve Cotterill has admitted he has yet to make up his mind over Tom Kilbey's Pompey future.

The 20-year-old has emerged on to the first-team scene recently as the Blues boss scrambles around to boost numbers.

Three substitute appearances in the past four games have suddenly brought the rookie midfielder to the attention of Pompey fans.

The highlight of Kilbey's new-found first-team action was undoubtedly a maiden goal at Brighton in the third round of the FA Cup.

But a week later he came in for criticism from Cotterill as the Blues slumped to a late, late defeat at Forest.

The boss was scathing in his analysis, after the youngster had come off the bench to play in an unfamiliar striking role.

For the former Millwall trainee, the race is now on to impress, with his current deal expiring in the summer.

The past few weeks have seen Matt Ritchie sold and Ellis Martin and Perry Ryan loaned out to Havant & Waterlooville and Bognor respectively.

Meanwhile, Marlon Pack is on a season-long loan at Cheltenham and Pompey have offered a new deal to Joel Ward.

But Cotterill conceded he was still retaining an open mind over the latest home-grown product.

He said: 'Tom has been injured for a long time and is a lovely lad.

'Mind you, he has shocking dress sense – the lads slaughter him every day for the gear he wears.

'He keeps coming in in shorts. I don't think they have told him it's winter.

'But his football skills in my opinion need tidying up. His feet are loose and we need to spur them on another couple of notches.

'On the other side of the coin, he is a good athlete and he can run, which is obviously very important in the modern game.

'If I'm honest, I don't quite know what the future holds for Tom because I haven't seen him enough.

'We don't have a reserve team so I can't pick the bones out of it a little bit, so that one will be a wait-and-see thing with him and where he is.

'Exactly how much he is going to give us, I don't know the answer to that.

'At least we have managed to overcome the obstacle that if he played we had to give a lump sum to Millwall.

'To be fair to them, they were first class with that. They did a deal on a pay-as-he-plays basis.

'That was a fantastic gesture by them and now Tom can play for us.

'His contract is up at the end of the season but I don't quite know where he will be yet.'

Kilbey first sprang to prominence this summer when he netted a consolation goal against Club America on Pompey's pre-season tour.

The midfielder also featured against Ventura County Fusion before damaging his knee ligaments on Edmonton's Astroturf during the Canada stop-off.

It wasn't until November that the youngster returned to training.

Once that landmark was reached and a payment clause with former club Millwall settled, Kilbey has been able to take his place on the Pompey bench.

And Cotterill has paid tribute to him after showing the guts and determination to return from his horror injury.

He added: 'Tom has done very well to come back from that injury.

'Having said that, I needed him really at the start of the season.

'The problem was we lost him in America to a medial knee ligament and they can be really bad.

'He trained for six weeks before he became involved with the first team and his knee has knitted back. Touch wood, he's fine.

'He hasn't got the strongest of legs on the best of days – a good gust of wind and he will be down the road.

'There's not a lot to him. He's one of those tall, gangly and spindly people and he took a bad whack to be fair to him.'