ANDY AWFORD expects Jed Wallace to leave Pompey this summer.
The former Blues boss played a major part in persuading the 21-year-old to stay at Fratton Park last year.
But after 17 goals in a fine League Two campaign, Wallace’s stock is high – with several clubs lining up a transfer swoop.
Championship outfits Wolves and Fulham are believed to be leading the chase for his signature.
And Awford believes Pompey will have to start planning for life without him – even though he insists, to his knowledge, there is no deal already done.
Awford said: ‘I think he’ll go in the summer. I’m not saying I would advise him to go but I think he will.
‘I was aware of certain things but it would be unfair of me to betray any confidence.
‘I think someone will take a punt. If I was a Championship manager, I would take a punt on him.
‘He came to us when he was 17 and came into the system late.
‘But he has done brilliantly and I’m so pleased for him because he is a great lad.
‘Put it this way, I’d be surprised if he stayed.
‘If I’d have been manager, I would have tried to convince him to stay again.
‘But his stock is that high, I think there is more than one club who would be willing to have a look at him and give him a go at that level.’
In Awford’s opinion, Pompey got a bonus season out of the midfielder but the former boss declined to go into the details on a believed clause in the player’s contract allowing him to leave this summer.
‘I can’t go into any clauses that may be in his contract. That is the club’s business,’ said Awford.
‘But I don’t think he would have stayed if I hadn’t been the manager last summer.
‘I’m not blowing my own trumpet but I do think he would have left at the end of last season if we hadn’t done what we did.
‘It showed him we could do something.’
But Awford has warned his former charge to make the right decision and then take his opportunity at the higher level.
‘Going to a club and sitting on the bench would not suit Jed,’ added Awford.
‘He is a competitive person and needs to play.
‘That would be down to him, though, and he would need to earn his place in the side. It wouldn’t be plain sailing for him.
‘He might not be ready for the Premier League just yet but, hopefully, he has a good bit of development in him.
‘Look at Matt Ritchie – another wonderful footballer. Was he ready to play in the Premier League when Pompey let him go? No, he wasn’t.
‘He is certainly ready now, though, and Jed has a few years to develop, too.’