The Cardiff and Blackburn recruits Portsmouth's Haji Mnoga can take inspiration from

Crewe’s visit to Pompey in November is something that’ll stick with Haji Mnoga for the rest of his career.

Friday, 12th February 2021, 4:07 pm
Updated Friday, 12th February 2021, 4:24 pm
Haji Mnoga in action on his full Football League debut against Crewe. Picture: Joe Pepler

No matter how far the 18-year-old goes in the game, he’ll always savour his full Football League debut.

After cameos off the bench against Lincoln and Plymouth, the academy product was finally handed a chance from the outset against Alexandra.

The soundbites that had been coming out of Fratton Park from pre-season was that the right-back was ready for League One. It’s why Kenny Jackett didn’t loan him out on loan.

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That sentiment was franked by impressive outings in the Papa John's Trophy – particularly in a man-of-the-match performance at Southend.

So after working hard in training, he was finally handed a start in the third tier against Crewe

Mnoga featured for 45 minutes and performed with credit. In true Mnoga fashion, he looked to foray forward when possible and use his pace to his advantage.

Mnoga was replaced by Callum Johnson and the Blues went on to secure a 4-1 win.

That was the last taste of League One football Mnoga's had.

In fact, his only subsequent outing arrived in the 3-0 win at Cheltenham in the Papa John's Trophy where he netted his first professional goal.

In the third tier, Johnson has made the right-back spot his own and shown his class after arriving from Accrington in the summer.

Certainly, it would have been a frustrating period for Mnoga after having a glimpse of league action.

But for the reverse fixture, Mnoga was set to drop out of Jackett’s squad with Jack Whatmough returning from suspension.

Having featured from the outset against the Railwaymen the best part of three months ago, it would have been more disappointment for the England youth international.

But in the infancy of his career, there are two prime examples to come through the ranks at Crewe that Mnoga can take heart from.

After being promoted to League One, there was an array of highly-touted upcoming talents people were waxing lyrical about.

And the pair who were being raved about the most weren't 25-goal strikers or mercurial wingers – but full-backs.

Perry Ng and Harry Pickering were Crewe’s two prized assets and tipped to continue their trajectory up the pyramid.

At 24, Ng was captain after graduating through Alexandra’s renowned youth set-up.

The Liverpudlian scored once in 20 games during the first half of the season.

That earned the right-back a switch to Championship Cardiff during last month's transfer window. He's been a regular since arriving in south Wales for £500,000.

When Ng was at the same stage of his career as Mnoga, though, he was plying his trade on loan at non-league Hyde.

Then following campaign, he only played six times for Crewe. It wasn’t until he was 20 before he got a sustained run in the side.

Pickering also got himself a move to the second tier last month. He was purchased by Blackburn, although he’s finishing the campaign back on loan at Alexandra.

The 22-year-old’s widely regarded as one of the best left-backs in League One. However, during his maiden season as a professional, he made just a solitary senior appearance.

Mnoga is unfortunate to be behind another top-notch right-back with his better years ahead in Johnson.

However, even Johnson had to wait until he was 20 for his senior debut when dropping to League Two to join Accrington from Middlesbrough.

Mnoga might not have had as many minutes as he'd have liked so far.

However, all things considered, the precocious defender’s career is already ahead of three top talents when in his position.