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COOK: A LONG WAY TO GO

16 July 2016

Manager's message to young players

The conveyor belt from Pompey’s academy to the first team has been moving briskly.

Conor Chaplin, Jack Whatmough and Ben Close are just some of the graduates to have made their senior debuts in recent years.

But Paul Cook felt that the latest friendly at Sutton showed just how important it is to have experienced players at his disposal.

A more youthful side struggled at the Borough Sports Ground and trailed 2-0 before a host of second half changes.

The Blues looked much stronger after that, with guys like Gary Roberts and Carl Baker providing plenty of impetus – even if it was teenager Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain who ultimately grabbed a consolation.

“It was a tough test for us,” said Cook. “It shows that you’ve always got to be on your mettle.

“All of our young lads think they should be in the team and sometimes you need games like that as a little reminder that they’ve got a long way to go.

“We wanted to leave those players on the pitch for as long as we could before introducing more senior players.

“We brought a full squad with us to Sutton and giving the rest of the lads 20 minutes at the end was about right.

“It was a great goal for Christian. He looks really bright and can’t really do anything wrong at the moment.

“I’m disappointed to get beaten as always, but we’re pleased to get more information on our players and it shows that we can step it up a level if we need to.”

Cook was not too concerned about the result, however, and is more concerned with getting his side ready for the League Two opener against Carlisle next month.

He said: “We’re getting more minutes into these lads and they’re familiarising themselves with each other.

“There are some nice partnerships that are starting to build – I thought that Talbot and Baker linked up really well when they came on.

“We’re also getting lads back to fitness like Michael Smith and Kyle Bennett, and trying to keep away from any injuries.

“Whether we win or lose these friendly matches, it’s the same message – we’re preparing for the new season.”

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