It goes without saying we have a vastly-talented squad currently at Fratton Park.
However, in addition to those presently at the club we have an array of talent out on loan and, in particular for our young players, the experience they’re getting is invaluable.
If you’re a young player at a big club and you’re not quite ready for the first team, then it’s imperative you get out playing and make a name for yourself somewhere.
That’s certainly what our young players are doing right now.
Calvin Davies is on loan at Bognor and is in the middle of a title race fighting it out against local rivals Hawks.
I think that’s great for him at such a young age, playing in games with high pressure and in front of decent crowds can only bode well for his development.
Likewise, Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is playing in the division above (National League South) week-in, week-out for Eastbourne. Now that is a tough league!
I played in it myself for Newport County around eight years ago and it is one heck of a grind.
Shaun North, who is a coach for our under-16s and also is assistant manager at Eastbourne, was first-team coach at Oxford when I first joined there 10 years ago.
We speak regularly and he informed me of how well Chambo is doing down there, which is great to hear.
Alex Bass our young goalkeeper is gaining valuable experience at Salisbury. He already has 14 clean sheets to his name this season
Only the Hereford goalkeeper has more, but they are running away with the league.
You can train with the first team and play reserve games but for these lads, playing competitive games is like seeing a new-born bird fly for the first time.
The most noticeable loanee is Adam May. He has played his part in a magnificent FA Cup run for National League side Sutton United.
Incredibly, they’ve knocked out a team from each of the EFL divisions and been rewarded with a home tie against Premier League giants Arsenal. An experience for Adam that I’m sure will be memorable.
Ben Close’s, inset left, loan to Eastleigh I’m particularly intrigued by. This is a player that established himself in the first team last season and I’m sure he saw himself having a bigger impact on the first team this term.
I certainly did as he was on fire at the start of pre-season. Hamstring issues hampered the first few months of the season for Closey, but he has been fully fit now for a couple of months with no issues at all.
He’s had to remain extremely patient and now he has the opportunity to join an ambitious club like Eastleigh for the remainder of the season and get some game time.
These players are at the beginning of their careers and trying to lay down the foundations to have a long and successful one.
If we didn’t have a squad the size that we do, then I’m sure at this very moment these players would be needed as cover for the 18-man squad.
It’s testament to the chairman and board to allow the size of the budget we have, which enables these young players to go out, learn the game, and comeback ready for the first team.