‘The penny drops at different times’: Liam Daish adamant Portsmouth protege has finally come of age – and is tipping ‘massive’ season

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It was the latter spell where the 20-year-old truly flourished, however, irrespective of the Terras’ relegation, while he made his international entrance with Tanzania.

As lead professional development phase coach, Daish oversaw the powerful defender’s emergence into first-team football.

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And he has noticed a crucial change in Mnoga through loan experiences.

He told The News: ‘In the last year – whether it has been through the loans – Haji has become a bit more self-sufficient and has developed more maturity.

‘Like all lads, everyone matures differently, the penny drops at different times in their career. You just want it to drop as early as possible.

‘You’ve got to remember he’s only a young lad but, because he’s such a physical specimen, you can forget.

Liam Daish believes Haji Mnoga has matured following his loan spells away from Fratton Park. Picture: Joe Pepler

‘However, he is now maturing psychologically and this year could be massive for him.

‘Haji loves a physical challenge, he loves physical contact, which is a great asset in today’s game. He has all the attributes physically, he’s quick and he’s strong.

‘He just needs to concentrate on making more of the right decisions involving when he can go and win the ball and when he needs to hold off and not dive in.

‘You don’t want to take that competitiveness away because that’s what Haji is about. Wanting to make first contact is an asset you need in centre-halves, but he’s got to remember when not to put all his eggs in one basket.

‘I’ve always said to Haji that the easy way is when someone tells you something and you learn from it. Then there’s the hard way.

‘I learnt the hard way, but you do learn, that’s the main thing, and Haji has learnt a similar way.

‘I was a bit like that in terms of wanting to win every ball and sometimes it can get you into trouble.’

Mnoga returns to Pompey having spent the bulk of his time at Weymouth operating at centre-half.

Although in his most recent outing for Tanzania against Niger earlier this month, he served at right-back, before collecting a groin injury shortly before half-time.

Daish added: ‘I know other coaches and managers saw him as a right-back – I didn’t. Haji’s a centre-half all-day long, whether it’s on the right of a three or one of the two.

‘Opinion has been split throughout the club since I was there. Kenny (Jackett) saw him as a right-back and even a wing-back.

‘But I don’t see that. He’s still young, though, and you don’t mature as a centre-half until 23-24. That’s when you really start learning the game positionally, when you go and challenge, and when to drop off.

‘But I think Haji’s getting better at it.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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