Alan McLoughlin has told Pompey’s development squad: We need to be convinced you have a future.
The Blues first-team coach was less than happy with his young side’s effort in the 4-1 defeat at Gosport Borough on Tuesday as Alex Pike’s side looked meaner and hungrier when dominating the game.
Pompey development players Nick Awford, Jack Maloney, Josh Warren, Liam Triggs and George Branford are on the fringes of the first-team squad at Fratton Park and will be looking to make the step-up this term.
But the team struggled against Conference South new-boys Gosport to suggest they are not ready for League Two yet.
And McLoughlin believes the quintet would benefit from loan spells away from the Blues for a dose of what he calls ‘real football’.
The former Pompey midfielder, who made more than 300 appearances for the club and earned 42 caps for the Republic of Ireland, spent time at Torquay United in his formative years as he waited to make the breakthrough at Swindon Town.
He thinks the youngsters need to impress other managers who might be looking to take them on loan.
‘The young lads have got to convince the manager here, they need to convince the coaching staff and they need to show managers of other teams that might potentially come and watch looking to take them on loan,’ said McLoughlin.
‘I know they want to give these young lads experience and put them into a real football environment but they will only take players they think can do a job for them.
‘When I was at Swindon, I was told “you are going to Torquay and you are going there to play 25 games”.
‘I was playing up against big, hairy blokes who were coming towards the end of their careers and wanted to kick lumps out of me.
‘But I soon learnt to move the ball quickly, how to get side on, how to challenge and protect myself.
‘I had to find ways to make life difficult for this big, horrible old pro.
‘That was about being quick, inventive, looking to play forward and not being predictable.
‘I knew I had to be a pain in the backside to them.
‘I went back to Swindon a completely different player because I knew I didn’t want to go back to Torquay and I had to improve my game.
‘The boys have got to take that on board.
‘Against Gosport, I saw our players going backwards and sideways all the time and that is not going to hurt anyone.
‘You can go and play nice, pretty stuff in Academy football and everyone looks great.
‘You can ping it around, everyone stands off and lets everyone else play, but real football is what they experienced against Gosport.’
McLoughlin has backed the young charges to take some valuable lessons from the defeat.
He said: ‘You have bad games and it’s about how they react now.
‘You can have a bad night but we won’t accept a first-half performance like that. It wasn’t good enough.
‘We are conscious of the fact that these boys are 18 or 19 years old playing against men.
‘But the bottom line is that if we need these boys to go into our first team, they will be playing against better players than Gosport.
‘I thought Gosport were excellent and all credit to them for the way they played. But if our young players want to be in the mix to get into the first team, there has got to be a big, big improvement.
‘I want to see a bit more graft from them and I’m sure I will.’