A full campaign as Pompey’s regular left-back beckons for Dan Butler.
Yet the 18-year-old is convinced had Michael Appleton still been in charge he wouldn’t even be in the squad.
Butler was one of the bright lights of last season, emerging from a loan spell with the Hawks to total 18 appearances after January.
The Isle of Wight youngster’s enthusiasm and encouraging displays have cemented his place as Guy Whittingham’s preferred choice for the role in the forthcoming season.
Yet Butler believes under Appleton he would never have had a look-in.
Admittedly, it was the former Blues boss who granted him his first-team debut as one of 11 teenagers who appeared in the Capital One Cup at Plymouth.
Butler, though, did not make a first-team squad again until Whittingham’s arrival following Appleton’s exit in November.
He admits he owes a lot to the current Pompey manager.
‘After that Plymouth game I don’t think I would have ever played,’ said Butler.
‘It was the gaffer (Whittingham) who called me back from Havant but if (Michael) Appleton had stayed I don’t think I would have ever played.
‘I am not sure if he didn’t like me or didn’t think I was good enough.
‘He didn’t ever say anything to me. I haven’t really spoken to him to be honest.
‘He never said anything other than “morning”. That was it.
‘I couldn’t go up to him and ask why I wasn’t playing, I supposed it would just be like “you are not good enough” and I didn’t want to hear that.
‘Plus Jon Harley was playing well.
‘Perhaps with Appleton it was just trusting someone and having trust in me, I’m not sure what it was.
‘I did approach him once and asked what things he wanted me to work on and he told me straight.
‘It’s not as if I didn’t know, I just wanted to see if he would be straight – and he was to be fair.
‘I felt I improved on what he said but never got on the bench or travelled.
‘While he was here I had never, ever travelled with the first team in the league. I had never sat on the bench for them.
‘The Plymouth game was officially my debut but it didn’t feel like it – it wasn’t the same because everyone played in it.
‘I didn’t get played because I was good enough, I played because I had to play.
‘When I played against Hartlepool I am sure they could have got someone else there so that meant something to me.’
It was not only a change of manager but also a Hawks loan spell which proved to be the turning point.
And after 11 matches with Lee Bradbury’s side he returned to Fratton as a first-team contender.
He added: ‘I was training really well, I felt good, I was playing under-21 games and felt so comfortable.
‘I don’t mean to sound arrogant but I felt it was easy, I felt like I wasn’t really getting challenged. So I went to Havant.
‘I was still training with Pompey but could have scored five out on loan and still Appleton wouldn’t have called me back.
‘In the end it was the gaffer who did. I signed for the season on loan at Havant on the Friday – and then the Monday got called back. I’ve been here since.’