Joe Gallen: Injury prevented Haji Mnoga playing in League One for Portsmouth this season
Joe Gallen is convinced injury has deprived Haji Mnoga of a Football League debut this season.
The 17-year-old is back in the first-team frame and on Tuesday night started against Walsall in the Leasing.com Trophy.
That 2-1 success represented a maiden appearance of the campaign for the highly-regarded defender, who has battled back from a freak injury.
Mnoga broke a toe in his left foot in August, with boss Kenny Jackett putting it down to falling off a kerb while walking to the Victorious Festival.
He returned to action last month – and was subsequently handed a one-and-a-half year deal, representing his first professional contract.
And Pompey’s assistant boss believes had it not been for injury, Mnoga could have already been utilised in League One in the problematic right-back position.
Gallen said: ‘Haji was excellent in pre-season, I was at Woking and Aldershot and in both games I thought “Wow, he has really improved”.
‘Then he picked up an injury. Had he not (picked up an injury), I would have thought he would have played a league game or two.
‘We will never know, but I would have thought so.
‘Haji can play at right-back and I am sure would have had a go. He looks like a man and has to be adjusting mentally.
‘He’s got a lot of power and needs to work on his finesse a little, that will come with games and confidence.
‘From the end of last season to the pre-season, eight weeks or whatever, he made a rapid improvement in the games I saw, I thought he was excellent.’
Mnoga featured for 63 minutes against Walsall, before replaced by Steve Seddon as the Blues reached the quarter-finals.
It represented his fourth Pompey outing, all arriving in the EFL Trophy.
Gallen added: ‘There has to be a good distribution from right-back and you must make the right decision, you will get to that when you play a lot of games, you learn from your mistakes.
‘It’s finesse as well, in terms of touch, his passing and weight of pass. That has improved and has to improve further, because he already has the physical attributes and athleticism.’