McCallum handed Pompey first-team challenge

Paul McCallum. Picture: Joe Pepler
Paul McCallum. Picture: Joe Pepler

Paul McCallum has been handed a clean slate and a second chance to prove his Pompey worth.

The 21-year-old will today return to Blues training having spent the past few weeks back with parent club West Ham.

The onus is on him, he has got to come in, work hard and get back into the team, a team which is playing well

Andy Awford

The striker’s seven-match ban ended after last weekend, now Andy Awford has challenged him to break into his first-team set-up.

McCallum’s two outings saw him clock up just 40 minutes before his red card against Southend in January.

His reaction towards referee Lee Collins earned an additional four-match ban on top of the mandatory three games for violent conduct.

In his absence, Pompey have lost just one of their last eight games, while Ryan Taylor has struck up a useful partnership with Matt Tubbs.

Having not been considered for Tuesday’s trip to Northampton, McCallum’s first call will be to challenge for tomorrow’s visit to Accrington.

And Awford has urged him to work hard to get his chance.

Pompey’s boss said: ‘Paul has been at West Ham for the last couple of weeks, doing his fitness work there.

‘There was no point having him travelling up and down motorways, so the decision was taken to let him do some work at West Ham, which made sense to everybody.

‘He will now come back to us at the end of this week, we will assess him and go from there. He is back available, though.

‘It is about getting Paul back up to speed, however long that takes, and then we go from there. It’s a clean slate, he has had his punishment, he’s had his fine, he has served his suspension and he is contracted until the end of the season.

‘The onus is on him. He has got to come in, work hard and get back into the team – a team which is playing well.

‘He has got to work hard in training but the ball is in his court.’

During McCallum’s spell on the sidelines, Awford has reverted to a 3-5-2 system and paired Tubbs and Taylor.

The duo have responded with seven goals in eight matches, while Craig Westcarr has scored once as a substitute.

Rookie Conor Chaplin has served as the second striker on the bench, making three appearances. Now McCallum must barge his way into the group.

He added: ‘They have all played very well of late, since Paul has not been available we have hit our run of form.

‘It’s not Paul’s fault, I am not saying it is anything to do with that, for me there is no connection with that.

‘But we talk about Wes Fogden coming back as a new player, so let’s hope Paul can also come back as a new player.

‘We brought him in to do a specific job and obviously he has not been able to do that.

‘The onus is well and truly on him.

‘He has got to get back here on the training pitch, do the business and get into the team.’