Liam Walker has been backed to continue his footballing education but Guy Whittingham warned: He’s still learning his trade.
The 24-year-old talent is by no means the finished article but has shown plenty of exciting potential since joining the club after being spotted in Pompey’s pre-season tour game against Gibraltar last summer.
His performance levels have just started to show signs of dropping off in recent weeks, though, and Whittingham has issued a timely reminder that Walker is in his debut season in English football.
The Blues’ caretaker boss said: ‘Liam has done okay.
‘I think he’s doing a good job for the team. I still think with Liam that, because it’s his first season and his first run in the team, really, that he’s still learning as well.
‘It takes a bit of getting used to. He was playing over in Spain and had a bit more time on the ball, whereas you don’t really get any time on the ball over here.
‘It’s also a lot more physical here with the kind of challenges you get.’
Walker, who has scored two goals in 24 appearances this season, started the past five matches before today as Whittingham went with an unchanged starting line-up.
But the caretaker boss accepts the midfielder has been playing a role on the left flank that is not his favoured position.
Whittingham said: ‘He’s not an out-and-out wide man but when he has needed to give us width, he has done that role for us. I think he has done well for us out there.
‘I think he understands that we’re very much about the team and he’s doing a role for the team at the moment in a position that he doesn’t necessarily like playing.
‘He doesn’t dislike playing out there but I think he would rather be a central-midfield player.
‘At the moment, Johnny Ertl and Therry Racon have got a good understanding in there of being solid for us, which is what we need.
‘So Liam is happy to get on with it, and Jed (Wallace) on the other side is happy to do the same.
‘They are not out-and-out wide men. They are playing as midfielders who work up and down out there for us.’
While Pompey probably still lack creativity at times, Whittingham knows Walker – who grew up in Gibraltar but has family from Waterlooville – has the ability to unlock defences.
However, the Blues boss knows there is a balance to strike between adding finesse or playing a killer pass and keeping possession and doing the defensive work.
Whittingham said: ‘We all know he’s got great ability and we’re trying to get him to play one and two-touch passing because that’s what he’s good at.
‘He can find that pinpoint pass. Sometimes I think he’s trying to be too accurate but that’s him. He wants to put players through so the ball goes straight to their feet.’