Ian Foster believes Jack Whatmough will be a ‘huge asset’ for Pompey next season.
And the first-team coach hasn’t ruled out the central defender featuring before the current campaign ends.
Whatmough made his first Blues appearance in almost a year when he turned out in Monday afternoon’s reserve match against Crawley.
It was back in March 2015 when he sustained crucial knee ligament damage against Cheltenham at Fratton Park.
Recently the 19-year-old played six times for the Hawks during a successful loan spell.
Now Whatmough is inching closer to a Blues first-team presence.
And Foster remains delighted with the Gosport youngster’s on-going progress.
He said: ‘Monday was his first reserve game since coming back and he is developing into the player we know he can be.
‘We will see how close he can get to the first-team this season, obviously there are 10 games to go and you never know, Jack might have a part to play in that.
‘If he doesn’t he is training with us every day, improving every day and will certainly be a huge asset for us come pre-season and the start of next season.
‘It’s a little bit early to say what impact Jack is going to have this season, but when you see him play like he did against Crawley it’s a reminder to everyone how good he is.
‘It was difficult for Jack. He had Ben (Tollitt) playing in front of him with no defensive responsibilities, but he needs that type of challenge.
‘It’s just match minutes he requires, those type of games to feature in, plus loads of training.
‘He is going to be big player, we all know that, it’s just going to take a little bit of time to get where we think he needs to be and where Jack once was.
‘But Jack has rehabbed fantastically well, the medical staff need to take a lot of credit for that.
‘He is fit, healthy and needs more minutes.’
Whatmough recently trained with Eastleigh for a week ahead of an anticipated loan move.
However, that deal has now fallen through and the defender remains at Fratton Park.
He has already benefited from time spent at Westleigh Park at the turn of the year, marking his competitive return from injury.
And Pompey are grateful to Hawks boss Lee Bradbury for utilising the youngster during that spell.
Foster added: ‘Jack’s had his loan at Havant which got him match minutes, which was fabulous, you can see how much quality he has got.
‘He is certainly not a million miles away at this stage.
‘He was just ready to play footy, it didn’t particularly matter what level it was and we are really grateful to Havant for taking him in and giving him minutes.
‘It was hugely beneficial for him at that stage of his recovery.’