Josh Flint’s remarkable re-emergence has ‘blown away’ team-mate Leon Maloney.
And the 18-year-old has been backed to maintain his impressive development following an eye-catching Pompey debut.
Flint failed to joined academy colleagues Maloney, Joe Hancott and Bradley Lethbridge in winning third-year scholar terms following their summer graduation.
Hampered by a broken arm in his final campaign at youth level, the Waterlooville midfielder was instead handed the opportunity to remain at the club in the short-term during recovery.
On Saturday, the former Queens Inclosure Primary School pupil was presented with a first-team debut in the Leasing.com Trophy against Norwich under-21s.
He responded by grabbing a goal and an assist in the Blues’ 3-1 triumph.
And Maloney, who has risen through the ranks alongside the ex-Fratton Park season-ticket holder, has saluted his friend’s success story.
He said: ‘Flinty got an injury extension, I don’t think he was planning to stay here much longer.
‘Then he came in for pre-season and started really well, got bigger, got quicker and has really improved. He did really well out there on Saturday.
‘He’s had a massive growth spurt, he used to be one of the small boys, we still say he has small-man syndrome but has just grown out of it! He has shot up.
‘Flinty has got much bigger, while on the ball has really improved and done well.
‘He came back in pre-season and blew me away to be fair, he has been class, looked fitter, stronger, really good on the ball and has done well.
‘He’s got much bigger and stronger. I am still getting used to Flinty as that kind of player!
‘On Saturday he proved himself out here – and I think has shown he should be here and should be playing.’
Maloney capped his second Pompey start by laying on an assist for Ellis Harrison’s opening goal.
But he was more delighted for close friend Flint.
He added: ‘I’m buzzing, it’s just what you want for your mate.
‘If you were watching from the stands and see your mate scoring, you’re just buzzing. So if you are playing on the pitch with him, it’s an even better feeling.’