Whittingham upbeat over Harris’ fluctuating Pompey season

Ashley Harris impressed after coming off the bench against Stevenage
Ashley Harris impressed after coming off the bench against Stevenage

For Ashley Harris, the early-season furore has quietened and appearances have run to a trickle.

Nonetheless, Guy Whittingham believes the youngster should be ‘delighted’ with his first full Fratton Park campaign.

A substitute outing against Stevenage on Saturday marked only Harris’ third appearance in the past 13 matches – all from the bench.

It’s in stark contrast to the first half of the season when he racked up 26 matches and two goals – albeit 18 of them as a substitute.

Although a regular in the squad, the likes of Jed Wallace, Liam Walker and Jack Maloney have surged past him in the selection of wide positions.

Meanwhile, in his favoured striker role, David Connolly, Patrick Agyemang, John Akinde and James Keene have all been preferred throughout the campaign.

Still, the talented 19-year-old is contracted at Fratton Park for another season.

And Whittingham insists the former Purbrook Park pupil has a big role to play in Pompey’s future.

He said: ‘Ash is still an important part of the squad. You saw at Leyton Orient the other week when he came into a position where he likes to play.

‘We regard him more as a striker, a man in the hole, rather than a left-sided player.

‘He played out there mostly when we played three up front, but Jack (Maloney) is one of those players whose position that is so if we have Jack on the bench then we are going to put him out there.

‘Ash is more of a striker/man-in-the-hole player and if there’s an occasion we feel we need that type of player in there then we will put him in.

‘You want to try to play all players in their best positions. For the best of Ashley, we need to try to get him into a position he wants to play.

‘I don’t even think next year is a big season for him. The big decision is if Ash is still in the game at the age of 21-22.

‘That is when you can tell you have actually made it as a footballer – not just having a couple of seasons when you are younger because your football club is in the position it is in.

‘He will be very much part of the squad next year and, going into pre-season, who knows?

‘Who knows what is going to happen and what players are going to come in?

‘But if I was that age and I had played 27 games this season and been involved in every single game for your home club, I would be delighted.

‘I can’t see any reason for him to feel disappointed.’

Whittingham named Harris up front in his first game in charge at Bury in November.

Since then the Academy graduate has featured only 12 times, but the caretaker boss has been impressed how he has knuckled down.

He added: ‘As far as I know, Ash is okay with it.

‘He is one of those that never comes and complains, even though you know they are frustrated because they’ve had a few games and now they are not playing. We have all been there.

‘Like any good pro, you have just got to get your head down and work on it and know when you get your chance you’ve just got to take it.’