Pompey boss wants patience over Chaplin

Conor Chaplin. Picture: Neil Marshall
Conor Chaplin. Picture: Neil Marshall

Andy Awford has stressed the necessity of patience over the development of highly-regarded youngster Conor Chaplin.

The free-scoring forward last week signed his first professional deal with Pompey, tieing him to the club until the summer of 2016.

It is recognition of the 17-year-old’s encouraging progress with the Academy, where he has netted 13 goals in 12 matches so far this season.

He also scored for the reserves at Cheltenham, although wasn’t in the squad for Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at Bournemouth.

Inevitably, his goal-scoring exploits have come to the attention of supporters at a time when Awford is striving to unearth his best striking partnership.

But the Blues boss is determined not to rush through the diminutive forward until the occasion is right.

He said: ‘Conor is now a professional – the only thing different is he is on a slightly differently contract, he probably earns £10 more than he did last time!

‘Progression into the first team depends on his development.

‘At the moment, is he ready? No. Could he be in a month or three? Maybe.

‘Or could it take 12-18 because they are all different? I don’t know that yet.

‘The stepping stone we have got is reserve-team football.

‘He is playing against men every week which – as we all know – is totally different. Some are physically able to do it like your Whatmoughs and Websters who are 6ft 3in and built like brick outhouses. Some aren’t.

‘Conor is small. He is built but he is 5ft 6in or 5ft 7in, so is not physical.

‘What he has is pace, good balance and other attributes. He has that low centre of gravity.

‘It is a big jump from youth-team football to first-team football, we’ve just got to look after him during that transitional period and give him the opportunity to train with us.

‘The reserves have been brilliant – to go up against men – and we will see how he does and how long he takes.’

It was upon Awford’s appointment as Academy boss in 2011 that Chaplin first caught the eye, then playing in Mark Chamberlain’s under-14 side as a 13-year-old.

Awford oversaw the Worthing youngster’s development before taking over the first-team reins following the exit of Richie Barker at the end of last season.

And nobody needs to remind the boss of the talent the young forward possesses.

Awford added: ‘I think when players deserve to get a reward they should be rewarded and the lad has certainly done that. It sets a marker down to the others that they can do it.

‘When we have asked for an attacking player from the Academy to come and join in training we have Conor.

‘You don’t rotate that, they have got to earn the right to come and train with the first-team.

‘He is the one that constantly comes over and not looked out of place, even if he has looked nervous at times, which goes without saying.

‘He has been with us on a couple of trips and played well in the reserves and I am looking forward to seeing a bit more of him.’