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Haji Impresses On England Debut

Mark Kelly wants to see young defender continue to develop

13 February 2019

Haji Mnoga

Mark Kelly has praised Haji Mnoga after the Pompey defender made his debut for England under-17s.

The right-back featured in a goalless draw against Hungary at the weekend, having earlier been named on the bench for a 3-2 victory over France.

It is the latest step in a successful season for the 16-year-old, who has made three first team appearances for the Blues in the Checkatrade Trophy this term.

And Kelly believes international recognition is another sign of the good work being undertaken in Pompey’s youth set-up.

The academy manager said: “Haji went to St George’s Park and flew out to Spain, with the games being held at the Pinatar Arena in Murcia.

“It’s a great facility that’s used by a lot of clubs and the sun was out, which is nice at this time of year.

"That recognition is nice to get and reflects on the work we’re doing at Pompey."

Mark Kelly

“Hungary didn’t want to come out and play too much, so they were quite negative, but Haji was able to grow into the game.

“He got forward well from right-back and sent some decent balls in, while his defending was strong. It was a first step and I thought he acquitted himself well.

“That recognition is nice to get and reflects on the work we’re doing at Pompey. Eyes are back on us again and I’ve been getting phone calls from guys from national teams.

“Harvey Rew has been away with Wales, Eoin Teggart and Leon Maloney have been getting interest from the Ireland sides, Croatia will be looking at Petar Durin and Joe Hancott has always been on England’s radar.”

Kelly has now challenged Mnoga to keep improving and believes he has all the attributes to achieve success.

He said: “Haji has still got a lot of developing to do and plenty to learn. He’s stepped into the first team for the Checkatrade Trophy matches and has got the physicality to be able to do that.

“He’s a big, strong lad and is trying to build a well-rounded game. It’s about being consistent and trying to become more tactically aware.

“Some of our first year scholars aren’t as developed physically, but are maybe more technical. It’s all a fine balancing act.

“But Haji certainly didn’t look out of place when playing for England. I remember when I was younger and went away with Ireland and it’s hard when you don’t know anyone.

“He’s a Portsmouth boy through and through, so probably hasn’t been off the island too much in the past.

“They’ve all grown up together here, but international football takes you out of that comfort zone and it’s something else he has to manage.”

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