Jack Whatmough has set his sights on a starting spot in Pompey’s League Two curtain raiser with Carlisle.
And the Blues defender is keen to continue making up for lost time by impressing boss Paul Cook in today’s pre-season friendly with Premier League Bournemouth at Fratton Park (3pm).
The game, which doubles up as Hall-of-Famer Alan McLoughlin’s benefit match, will provide Whatmough with another chance to prove both his fitness and talent after an injury-decimated 2015-16 campaign.
The centre-half damaged cruciate knee ligaments against Cheltenham in March 2015 and was forced to wait more than a year before playing again for Pompey.
Two appearances in the Blues’ final two league games of last season marked the sum total of action for the 19-year-old, who insists he is now fighting fit and ready to outline his worth to Cook.
A first 90-minute run out for the club in nearly two years on Tuesday – against Salisbury – strengthened those claims.
And Whatmough is determined to take his opportunity in pre-season to earn a prized first-team place when the Cumbrians visit on August 6.
He said: ‘Salisbury was my first 90 minutes in just short of two years for Pompey.
‘To do that marked a great achievement for me to get through the injury I had.
‘Now I am just looking to build up more minutes and hopefully get in that starting line-up for the first game of the season.
‘My knee is fine, I am feeling fitter and I am getting back to the player I was.
‘Hopefully I can get better and better and it will be a good season for me and the club.’
Today’s visit of the Cherries marks the Blues’ first and only home appearance in pre-season – and it is an occasion Whatmough is looking to savour.
‘It is always good to go out and play at Fratton Park and I can’t wait to go,’ he said.
‘It is always a good atmosphere no matter how many people are there.
‘If there’s 15,000 it will be rocking and if there are 7,000 it will still be rocking.
‘It will be good competition against Bournemouth who are a Premier League side and we are all looking forward to it.’
Most important, though, will be the opportunity to get more minutes under the belt in a pre-season that represents Whatmough’s first under Cook.
He added: ‘Pre-season is vital for any player – that is where your fitness comes from.
‘It is always mentally tough in pre-season as well so if you can get through that then you will be mentally ready for the season.
‘So to be able to do this year’s pre-season is good for me, especially as I missed last year’s one.
‘This has been my first pre-season under the staff that are in now and alongside the players who are here.
‘But I am ready to go now for August 6.’