Barker weighs up regular midfield role for Jack

Pompey defender Jack Whatmough. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey defender Jack Whatmough. Picture: Joe Pepler

Richie Barker believes Jack Whatmough can become a regular resident in the heart of his midfield following his eye-catching Fleetwood showing.

The 17-year-old central defender was a shock presence in the starting line-up on Saturday, particularly as it came in the Pompey engine room.

The Blues slipped to a 3-1 defeat at the Highbury Stadium as those relegation fears refused to disperse with nine League Two matches remaining.

But Whatmough was the outstanding player, shining alongside Toumani Diagouraga and then as part of a back three.

And Barker admits he would consider putting the Gosport youngster in a midfield role again this season.

He said: ‘I thought Jack was excellent.

‘There is no way you would have gone away thinking that lad is 17 – and a centre-half at that as well to be fair to him.

‘He deals with the ball very well, he sees a pass and at times he is composed.

‘When we went back into a three, he competed against some strong centre forwards, brought it out for us and didn’t panic. It didn’t affect him.

‘I think he can do that central midfield role again.

‘Until he becomes physically stronger that might be the best role for him for the time being just because he is having less physical competition with bigger and stronger players.

‘We have to understand he is still growing and still getting stronger. It takes time.

‘Jack has actually been injured for the best part of two months. He’s been in-and-out in terms of his knees.

‘He’s only been back fit two weeks and in that time he’s had an England game and a first-team game, in which he was excellent.’

With Romain Padovani out with a calf problem, Whatmough got the nod in the centre of midfield ahead of Thery Racon.

It means Racon has been an unused substitute in the Blues’ last four matches.

With the Frenchman’s contract up in the summer, it throws into doubt his future at Fratton Park.

But Barker believed Whatmough’s defensive ability gave him in the edge for team selection at Fleetwood.

He added: ‘I thought we needed a bit of protection in front of the back four with their two strikers who hold it up well, while they also play with almost a front five with three behind them.

‘I went with Jack ahead of Thery just because of the defensive duties.

‘We knew there had to be a little bit of screening, we knew there would be some competition in terms of physicality.

‘We have no issues with Jack dealing with the ball either, we can play through him, his passing was excellent.

‘In addition, we also had his physical side of it, with the defensive knowledge.’