Ex-Pompey winger Jack Maloney has been told his fitness must improve if he is to begin climbing back up the leagues.
That is the verdict of Steve Claridge, who as Salisbury boss this month released the youngster.
Jack does have good ability, very good ability, but ultimately that isn’t a defining feature in someone’s gameSteve Claridge
Maloney broke into the Blues’ first-team in August 2012, coming off the bench in a Capital One Cup defeat at Plymouth Argyle.
The Isle of Wight youngster went on to represent the club 11 times before being released at the end of last season.
He then spent the first part of the campaign with table-topping Salisbury in the Wessex League premier division.
Last week Maloney linked-up with Craig Pearce’s Horndean, who sit a place behind in the table, and Claridge believes the 21-year-old must resolve his fitness concerns.
He said: ‘Jack is a lovely lad, I really got on well with him.
‘But he is at the stage where he has got to make a decision as to concentrate on his work and put football on the back-burner – or do what he needs to and give football a lot more attention than he is.
‘Jack needs to get fit and if he can’t get himself fit then he has to get games, so it was a double-edged sword for us.
‘He couldn’t get himself to the level that I wanted – mainly because he has problems with shin splints – and as a club we concentrate a lot on fitness and strength and conditioning.
‘You got the feeling he needed full-time training to get back to that level. Some of the lads can train twice a week and are as fit as a fiddle and look after themselves.
‘He wasn’t like that so that was a little bit of a problem for us.
‘He does have good ability, very good ability, but ultimately that isn’t a defining feature in someone’s game.
‘There are a million players out there with ability and not playing football in the Football League because they didn’t have the other bits and pieces.
‘Ability is 40 per cent, the rest of it is you need to be fit, need to be strong, need to have the right character, you need the courage, the ability to go through bad periods and come out the other side.
‘We got him as fit as he has ever been, so he wasn’t unfit, but without games just couldn’t get that sharpness.’
Meanwhile, a former Pompey Academy team-mate of Maloney’s is impressing at the Raymond McEnhill Stadium.
George Colson, who also made his debut in that Pilgrims tie, arrived in the summer from Newport Isle of Wight – and he is thriving in his new surroundings.
He added: ‘George was a central midfielder but wasn’t quite what we wanted there, so we turned him into a right-back and he has been fantastic.
‘The lad is strong and fit and has a lot of possession in his new role because of the way we play, which suits him.
‘Although he still needs to learn defensively.
‘He is as fit as a fiddle, one of the fittest boys in the league I would have thought, always willing to do extra.