Guy weighs up more Maloney starts

Jack Maloney defends well against Tranmere on Easter Monday   Picture: Barry Zee
Jack Maloney defends well against Tranmere on Easter Monday Picture: Barry Zee

Guy Whittingham is considering more Pompey starts for Jack Maloney during the remainder of the campaign.

And the Blues’ caretaker boss has revealed he is ready to call more starlets into his first team this season.

The 18-year-old Maloney was granted his full debut on Monday against Tranmere.

Selected on the left-hand side of midfield in place of Liam Walker, he featured for 72 minutes in the 1-0 victory.

Maloney is the fourth member of the Academy to be granted a maiden Football League start this season.

He joins Adam Webster, Dan Butler and Jed Wallace, with Ashley Harris making his breakthrough last year.

And, with four fixtures remaining, Whittingham believes Maloney could yet make the starting XI again.

He said: ‘Jack did okay against Tranmere. I think he would have probably liked to have got on the ball a little bit more to run at people. That’s what he likes to do.

‘But I was more interested in his defensive side of things because it is so important in the first-team environment that you do the other side of the game.

‘It’s not just being on the ball and exciting people – and I thought defensively he did well with the help of Shaun Cooper.

‘Jack is not scared of hard work but it makes a difference in the first team.

‘If you switch off for half a second with the first team it could cost you – and I was pleased with how he focused.

‘He looked tired when he came off because it was a big occasion with a big pitch and nerves can take it out of you.

‘He will play again, it’s important to do that. We have got to see if these guys are good enough.

‘I think we are going to dip Jack in and out for the remainder of the season.

‘I don’t think Liam (Walker) did anything drastically wrong, and in a way was unfortunate to find himself out of the side. I just think we needed to give Jack a taster.’

Maloney’s Academy team-mate, Nick Awford, could be the next to be given a chance.

The midfielder trained with the first team last week and travelled with the squad to Preston. And Whittingham admitted other youngsters could get their chance before the end of the season.

He added: ‘Possibly other youngsters will feature. We will decide in the next couple of days.

‘Obviously we will keep a close eye on our situation as far as a squad of 18 goes.

‘Nick (Awford) travelled with us to Preston. We wanted to give him a taste – and there are two or three of the lads in there who deserve to come up and have a bit of a taste of it.

‘It could be he plays soon – him and others, I expect.

‘I don’t know yet what we will do with Alex Grant. We will have a chat with him and see how he is doing.

‘He is playing games (at Hawks) and that is important to Alex because he hasn’t played many this season.’