Paul Kalambayi was told just a few hours before kick-off that he would be making his league debut, but the defender said that coaching guidance from Alan Reeves prepared him well to take his chance.
A regular for the Under-23s after making his way through our academy, nineteen-year-old Paul was thrust into the spotlight at Fratton Park against the league leaders. Though he had featured for the first-team in the Checkatrade Trophy, this was completely different.
Speaking during an interview for our iFollow channel, Paul said: “After lunch I got told that I was playing, but you always have to prepare as if you are starting. I am thankful for the opportunity. I just want to play as many games as I can and be there for the team. I will do whatever the manager wants me to do. I want to play a role in keeping us up and to do it for the team and the fans.
“It meant a lot (to make my league debut) because I had been working towards it since I was in the academy as a scholar. I’ve done quite a lot of work with Reevesy, which helped me a lot. I would say he played a big role in this because plenty of things he had been telling me happened out there. I was prepared and it turned out well for me.
“In the Under-18s I was learning about the game and how to win matches and since stepping up to the Under-23s with Reevesy I’ve started to become a better defender. I feel every week I’ve been getting better and better and Reevesy did a lot of one-on-one defending with me. He taught me about different scenarios in matches and that helped me. In terms of my development, I’ve had a lot of help.”
Paul, who is captain of our Under-23s, revelled in the experience of making his first league start, but he felt disappointed that the Dons just failed to earn a point at Fratton Park.
“I thought the boys did well,” added Paul. Going 1-0 down early in the game, we had to keep believing in ourselves and in the second-half we came out and we were the better team. After scoring we should have managed the game better because they are top of the table. We conceded four minutes later. In terms of managing the game and organising, I could have done more, maybe by telling the boys, ‘let’s see it out for the next five minutes, we are not in a rush here because we’re the away team’. It was a good experience for me though.”
“I just want to help the team get out of the situation that we are in. The boys are keeping our heads down and working hard in training week in and week out. We can feel that we are becoming a better team. That’s all that matters and we are just trying to keep the club up. We are a better team if we are working with each other.”
The full interview with Paul is available to watch on iFollow and extended highlights from the narrow defeat at Portsmouth are also on our club channel.