Jack Whatmough revealed how a late-night call on the eve of his return ended his injury pain.
A last-minute reshuffle from Kenny Jackett before the clash with Gillingham confirmed to the home-grown defender his six-month first-team absence was at an end.
The Pompey boss’ hand was forced before the 3-1 loss at Fratton Park, after Oli Hawkins picked up a hamstring injury ahead of another disappointing home defeat.
Whatmough was earmarked for a possible holding-midfield role in the build-up to the meeting, but was then utilised as part of a defensive three in a wing-back set-up.
That put to bed six months of more injury frustration after battling back from a knee problem.
The Gosport lad told how that call confirmed to him he would again be doing what he loves best.
Whatmough said: ‘We were actually working all week on me playing in a holding-midfield role.
‘Then the gaffer tried to get hold of me on Friday night.
‘I don’t answer my phone, though, if I don’t recognise the number, so I got an earful for not answering the phone to him!
‘It was about 9pm after dinner and he called me saying because of the injury to Oli he may play me in a back three or the holding role.
‘He said it may be either/or and am I happy with that?
‘In my mind I knew I was playing then and it was just whatever role it was.
‘I’m happy in either and was just happy to put the shirt on and be out there playing.’
Whatmough’s return proved to be a disappointing one as Pompey sacrificed a first-half advantage against the Gills.
The 21-year-old feels there has to be an inquest into how that lead was thrown away as the visitors bagged three second-half goals.
He said: ‘We were comfortable for 45 minutes and something went wrong.
‘It’s something we’re going to have to look back on, work on and put right this week.
‘The goals were good goals. It’s the sloppy ones you beat yourself up about.
‘But as a team, you go back to the first point and ask “can we stop it earlier?” That’s something we’ll look at and try to change.’
Whatmough acknowledged Pompey’s poor form in 2018 could put paid to play-off hopes, but he feels it should be noted the team is currently a young one in development.
He added: ‘If it’s the case we don’t make the play-offs, we’re building for next season.
‘It’s the first year with the gaffer, it’s a whole new squad and a young squad.
‘Now we have to build on this year for next year if it doesn’t happen.
‘We’ll be giving our all to make sure that happens, but if it’s not this time we’ll be ready for next time. We’ll be pushing for it.
‘(Fluctuating results) is part and parcel of a young squad.
‘We’re learning and we’ll bounce back.
‘We’re in a bad run of form right now, but we can sort it out.
‘If it doesn’t happen this year we still want a strong finish.
‘There are learning curves for a young squad and there’s the gaffer to give us pointers and advice.
‘We’ll work and believe we can build for the future.’