Pompey youngster Gary O'Neil has declared himself fit and ready for a first-team recall after a lengthy spell out following a cartilage operation.

But he knows he first has to impress boss Steve Claridge (pictured) who, since taking over the manager's job from Tony Pulis, has not featured O'Neil in his plans.

And the stylish midfielder from Bromley, Kent, has decided to get back into the reckoning by returning first to youth team action.

O'Neil said: "What I must do is to play well for Mark O'Connor at youth level and as I get my match fitness back, push for a place in the reserves and see how I go."

As Claridge took over, O'Neil injured his ankle which kept him out for a month, and two weeks later came the knee injury.

"So I can't complain about not getting in the side as I have only been match fit for about three weeks in total since the boss came in," O'Neil said.

O'Neil came through youth matches at Northampton and Nottingham Forest without reaction to his knee problem and is hopeful his injuries are now behind him.

"I was really tired after the Northampton game but was more pleased to get through the tough Forest match where tackles were flying in all over the place," O'Neil said.

Although O'Neil's expectations are high, he appreciates he is still young and learning his trade. "Every player wants to get in the first team," he said. "But I am in no rush as long as I am playing football every week, I don't worry what Pompey side it is."

Last season O'Neil travelled with the first team to Huddersfield and the next day was playing in the under-16s side at Fareham Town. "It does not matter what side I play in," he said. "I am an apprentice and I learn something new every day in any of the sides.

"But it would be nice before the end of the season to have another taste of first team football. And it is up to me to show the boss that I am ready for it again."

O'Neil hopes, above all, to get a further call-up for the England under-18 youth side.

He said: "On the day I went into hospital for my operation, Mark O'Connor got a letter asking for me to go with the England squad to Spain. So if I get back and start showing my best form then perhaps they will ask for me again."