Whittingham eyeing more following Academy quartet into Pompey first team

Jed Wallace, left, and Dan Butler, right, celebrate with David Connolly
Jed Wallace, left, and Dan Butler, right, celebrate with David Connolly

At 9.13pm on Tuesday night Pompey fans were given a glimpse into the future.

The arrival of Ashley Harris as a 74th-minute substitute took the number of Academy products on the field against MK Dons to four.

He joined fellow home-grown teenagers Jed Wallace, Dan Butler and Adam Webster in Guy Whittingham’s side, who went on to claim a 1-1 draw.

Never before had the quartet featured in the same Blues side for a Football League match, despite being first-team squad regulars since the turn of the year.

For Whittingham, it was an indication of the self-sufficient direction he sees the club going in beyond this season.

He believes other Academy prospects – whether present or already graduated into the development squad – will follow the four into the side before the campaign is over.

He said: ‘That is the future of this football club.

‘We have got to make sure they get the game time and we have got to make sure the under-18s, under-16s and lower see there is a progression into the first team.

‘To have four of our lads from the development group this year and last year is vitally important for people to see.

‘We have got to have this development group because players don’t always mature by the age of 18.

‘We have to be able to give them that vehicle to improve their game right until the age of 20.

‘And on Tuesday night we had four home-grown players on the pitch, which is fantastic for us.

‘Any problems of fielding all four at the same time is not something I have really thought about.

‘I thought it was the best option for us at the time.

‘The likes of Ash and Adam have not been getting a lot of game time but they are in and around the first team and picking up the right things to do.

‘All four of them have still got a lot to learn and know that – not only on the football pitch but how they behave in and around the first team and it is vitally important they are part of that.

‘We hope to be introducing more of the Academy lads before the end of the season to do that as well.’

It was Wallace who created David Connolly’s goal against the Dons with a well-delivered free-kick.

That came in the midfielder’s 12th appearance this season, during which he has scored twice.

Butler has now chalked up 10 appearances and made the left-back position his own.

Harris has made 25 appearances and Webster 18 but both have found games harder to come by of late.

Whittingham thought they could make a difference from the bench on Tuesday, though.

He added: ‘I felt Adam would have been able to get up the pitch and put some quality into the box.

‘Plus he is taller than Yassin so for those last 20 minutes, if they started putting the ball into the box we had extra height in there.

‘Ashley has been good as an impact player for us.

‘I thought he may have given the team a bit of a lift when he came on.

‘The crowd also took to it, they always want to see him play.’