JACK WHATMOUGH is looking to use the toughest challenge of his life to fuel his Pompey revival.
The homegrown talent has told of the pain he suffered on the sidelines as he faced up to his injury battle.
But now Whatmough is aiming to use that struggle as a springboard to make his mark next season.
The 19-year-old knows he needs to impress Paul Cook as he enters the final year of his contract.
Whatmough is now fully recovered from the anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered in March last year.
The Gosport talent admitted battling back from that issue at such a formative stage of his career was the hardest thing he’d ever faced.
Now, though, he’s using that experience as a drive to force himself into Cook’s first-team plans.
Whatmough said: ‘Last year was just a write-off for me.
‘It was mentally the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do.
‘I wouldn’t wish it on anyone to miss 15 months of football.
‘This is our job and to be out for that time was horrible.
‘Sometimes I was on my own and it was hard to deal with. I’m still just 19 so it was hard to take.
‘It mentally drains you – but it also mentally toughens you as a character.
‘But now I’m feeling good.
‘I feel I’ve dealt with it well and now I’m hoping to get games in this year.
‘Personally, I’d like to get myself into the team.
‘I’m coming into the last year of my contract.
‘For me now, I’m trying to play to earn a new contract.
‘Hopefully I can do that and be at this club for a long time.’
Whatmough made his return ahead of schedule last season, allowing him to get minutes on loan at Hawks.
He then came back into the Pompey equation with a late cameo at Hartlepool, before getting 70 minutes under his belt on the final day against Northampton.
Whatmough has seen action in every warm-up game so far, getting a half in against Sligo Rovers, 21 minutes versus Bohemians and 85 minutes at Hawks on Wednesday night.
The focus is to be in Cook’s first team against Carlisle on August 6.
Whatmough said: ‘I’m still trying to get minutes from last year.
‘I didn’t have a pre-season last year.
‘I played a bit at Havant and then 70 minutes at the end of the season.
‘I’m still trying to get minutes after my injury.
‘The way I look at it is it’s nice to get more and more minutes.
‘There’s a few new boys come in and we are looking to get together.
‘We did last year and it’s been the same this one.
‘That’s what we want to take into the season.
‘There’s five to go. I’d like to get a couple of 90s in before the start of the season.
‘That’d be nice and hopefully I can be in the starting line-up in the opening game.’