Michael Appleton weighed up his Pompey fledglings and told them: You did yourselves proud.
The Blues’ teenagers fell to a 3-0 first-round Capital One Cup loss at Plymouth last night.
But the scoreline failed to tell the real story of a gritty effort from Appleton’s babes at Home Park.
Two late goals undid a team whose age averaged just 18 at the end of the 90 minutes.
And that was after a strike in first-half stoppage-time stopped the youngsters going in all square at the break.
Appleton believes the battlers all stood up and were counted after being thrown into the deep end en-masse.
Ten of the side who started the game were making their full-debuts for Pompey as the wait goes on for the club to exit administration.
The Blues boss had nothing but praise for the manner in which the youngsters acquitted themselves.
He said: ‘I was delighted with the way they went about it. They showed good maturity in the second half.
‘There will be cynics who say they did their club proud but lost the game 3-0.
‘But if you were at the game, witnessed it and saw how it panned out, the fans have the right to say they were proud.
‘There were 13 or 14 players in the dressing room who will never forget that match, regardless of the circumstances behind it.
‘You can’t take the night away from them – and that was the message I gave them.
‘They are going to be a part of a fantastic future for the club.
‘They are certainly part of the history now because they have played in a game.
‘Yes, they lost 3-0 and were knocked out but the bigger picture is they have shown what Portsmouth Football Club is going to be for the next few years.
‘We needed to ask 11 or 12 players who have never played near this level before to do it.
‘Some of them really stood up and were counted – and that is the biggest message.’
Appleton is waiting for clarification on whether he will be able to bring players in ahead of the league campaign opener against Bournemouth on Saturday.
He is realistic about the number of youngsters who are ready for regular inclusion in League One next season.
The likes of Jed Wallace, Alex Grant, Dan Butler, Ashley Harris, Adam Webster and 17-year-old sub Jack Maloney sent out a message to their manager they were not overawed by the occasion, though.
Appleton said: ‘I want to put a team together and go into the season on Saturday – and I mean this in the best and most respectful way to the players – with a team where none of these players will get near it.
‘That’s the type of side I want Portsmouth fans to follow.
‘How many could be will depend on how many players we can sign.
‘There are three or four players who have done their cause no harm at all.
‘If they are needed to fill the bench, one or two of them there have made me more confident in doing that from their performances.’