Guy Whittingham has told Ashley Harris: It’s good to see you back.
The Pompey caretaker boss spotted signs that the forward had rediscovered his form with his display against Hermann Hreidarsson’s IBV side in Tuesday’s friendly.
And Whittingham has thrown down the gauntlet for the 19-year-old to further establish himself next season after falling down the pecking order in recent times.
Whittingham said: ‘I saw Ashley Harris again on Tuesday, so that was nice.
‘I was looking for that all-round energy again.
‘Especially in the second half, I thought he approached it a lot better.
‘I don’t know with Ash. He had a fair bit of success last season and then at the beginning of this season.
‘With a kid, when your form dips a little bit, you’re left out of the side and you can’t get back in, you don’t quite know how to handle that.
‘But it will be great for his experience to keep going.
‘Now it’s up to him to be a strong part of the squad next season.
‘A couple of times on Tuesday night he put the goalkeeper under pressure where you might think “what’s he doing that for?”
‘But he is trying to make the goalkeeper make a mistake and it’s those little things that catch your eye where he is willing to do that.
‘He was moving the ball a lot quicker and he is better when he is bustling around.
‘That’s why he has been better as an impact player.’
While Harris started the season in impressive style, netting twice in his first six appearances, he has not scored since his game-changing substitute appearance in the 3-0 win at Crawley Town in September.
And his playing opportunities have also been limited of late, having not started a game since February – which Whittingham feels has affected his belief.
‘His confidence was probably hit. Ash has been as good as gold,’ said Whittingham.
‘He gets frustrated like any other young kid because, let’s face it, it’s an instant world now.
‘Football isn’t quite like that. You’ve got to wait your turn and take your opportunity when it comes.’
The Blues boss knows it is a tricky balance to strike as he tries to ease the burden on his young players.
‘All of them are impatient at times but that’s part of learning and being a good pro,’ added Whittingham.
‘It was like Dan Butler and we had to be careful with him.
‘He came back in against Brentford and I thought he had a great game.
‘It’s all about not expecting too much from the young kids because they are young players who are 18 or 19 years old and are trying to make their way in an adult game.
‘Rather than having 10 or 12 years of kids football where they have been the best player in the side, now they are not and they are up against tough opposition.’